Tue, 25 Jan 2022

BRDO PRI KRANJU, Slovenia, Dec. 2 (Xinhua) -- The European Union has pledged to boost cooperation with the Western Balkans in order to better deal with illegal migration, it was announced after a ministerial meeting on Wednesday.

"We need a better exchange of information and better cooperation on the ground," Slovenian Interior Minister Ales Hojs, who chaired the meeting under Slovenia's presidency of the EU, told a news conference.

European institutions like Frontex, which coordinates EU border management, the EU's law enforcement agency Europol, and the European Asylum Support Office must give more support to Western Balkan states, Hojs said. Meanwhile, these states must support the EU institutions by providing them with the necessary information.

"Organized criminal groups are increasingly professional, increasingly international, and increasingly violent, and to fight them we need to work closer together," European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson told the press conference.

She said she has recently launched joint operational partnerships between the EU and third countries to fight migrant smuggling. Western Balkan countries "should be the first partners to build that kind of joint operational partnership" with the EU, she said.

"The European Commission, we stand ready of course with funding, and with expertise to work even closer together because we can only manage these challenges together," said Johansson.

"Western Balkan countries do not only belong to Europe, but they also have a future in the European Union and that's why it's also important that we invest in our close cooperation," she added.

Thousands of illegal migrants come to Western Balkans each year, trying to enter the European Union from Western Balkan states.

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