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Commissioner: EU, Western Balkans need to enhance cooperation in countering terrorism

The European Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs, Dimitris Avramopoulos | Youtube snapshot

The European Union and Western Balkan countries should enhance cooperation in countering terrorism and radicalization, warned the European Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs on Friday.

At a press conference after the end of the annual EU-Western Balkans justice and home affairs ministerial forum, Dimitris Avramopoulos stated that during 2016, the EU has taken firm action against the threat of terrorism and radicalization.

According to Avramopoulos, “The EU has enhanced security at the external borders, improved information exchange, closed down the space in which terrorists operate, and taken measures to prevent radicalization both online and offline.”

"Our cooperation with the Western Balkans remains essential in this regard and I welcome the fact that our partnership in this area has been strengthened,” he said, adding “We need to further build on this, particularly on issues such as countering radicalization, foreign terrorist fighters, and fire arms trafficking.”

The EU and Western Balkans are cooperating on several levels, and need to reinforce that cooperation, Avramopoulos assured.

The two sides have also achieved progress in the fight against firearms trafficking, the commissioner added.

"However, more needs to done on sharing intelligence, strengthening and enforcing the law and improving stockpile management and preventing theft," Avramopoulos concluded.

The Western Balkans consists of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, , the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro , Kosovo and Serbia. All have a perspective to accede to the European Union and hence are also called 'enlargement countries'.

There have been numerous attempts to improve the integration of the Balkan countries within the EU.

In July 2017, heads of Government, Foreign Ministers, Ministers of Economy and Ministers of Transport of the Western Balkans together met with their counterparts from several EU Member States and high-level EU representatives at the Balkan Countries Summit and discussed key areas of regional cooperation, and set out concrete measures to better connect the region's infrastructures, economies and people.