Progress in the implementation of the EU-Russia Roadmap for the Common Space of Freedom, Security and Justice, visa and migration issues, fight against terrorism and transnational crime, such as illicit drug-trafficking, corruption and trafficking of human beings, access to justice and judicial cooperation were among the issues discussed at the 17th Meeting of the EU-Russia Permanent Partnership Council on Freedom, Security and Justice, which was held in Moscow on 17 January.
The Hellenic Presidency was represented by the Ministers of Justice, Transparency and Human Rights Charalampos Athanasiou and of Public Order and Citizen Protection, Nikos Dendias. EU Home Affairs Commissioner, Cecilia Malmström was also in attendance. The Russian delegation was headed by the Minister of Justice, Alexander Konovalov. Representatives from EU agencies, such as Europol and Eurojust, as well as a delegation of the upcoming Italian Presidency, headed by Minister of Justice, Anna-Maria Canciellieri, also participated in the meeting.
In his opening statement, Minister of Public Order and Citizen Protection, Nikos Dendias, referred to the progress that has been achieved since the last meeting between the EU and the Russian Federation and the positive developments seen within the areas of Freedom, Security and Justice, but also identified significant challenges that still lie ahead. “I truly condemn the recent tragic events in Russia, such as in Volgograd and Pyatigorsk, which unfortunately illustrate the further need for reinforced common efforts in the fight against and prevention of terrorism, while fully respecting fundamental and human rights”, stressed the Minister of Public Order and Citizen Protection.
“The cooperation within the areas of Freedom, Justice and Security is placed firmly in the overall joint political cooperation between EU and Russia. The protection of human rights and a strengthened rule of law, including fully implemented freedom of expression and freedom of the media, are essential elements underpinning the EU-Russia relations and should be seen as necessary keystones for a healthy development and economic prosperity”, stressed Minister Athanasiou.
However, the minister expressed some concern over the protection of fundamental rights and the rule of law in Russia: “We would like to see more progress on these issues”.
With regard to visa issues, minister Dendias assured that the Presidency is following with major interest the progress achieved in the implementation of the Visa facilitation agreements and the Visa Liberalisation Dialogue. “However, to achieve further progress in the Visa Liberalisation Dialogue, it is of significant importance that the visa facilitating agreements are fully implemented”, said Dendias.
Minister Athanasiou pointed out the need for reinforced common efforts in the fight against and prevention of terrorism. He also emphasized strengthening cross-border cooperation, in view of the fact that crime has taken on an even more distinct transnational character. In that respect, judicial cooperation between the EU and Russia in criminal matters is of outmost importance, especially when tackling organised crime. But not unconditionally: “It is of great importance to the EU Member States that a high protection of personal data can be guaranteed in a future agreement as well as in the overall cooperation between the EU and Russia”.
In the press conference following the meeting, Minister Dendias noted that the EU is interested in issuing a joint declaration with the Russian Federation in combating terrorism and is ready to continue working in order for it to be adopted in time. Regarding the Dialogue on Migration and Readmission Agreement, Minister Dendias pointed out that it has moved forward in the last year and has been quite successful, highlighting the first tangible outcome of the Migration Dialogue, the visit to the border crossing of Mamonovo II in Russia and Grzechotki in Poland. A Senior Official Meeting is expected to be convened in order to jointly consider and approve the Work-Plan for the coming year.
“It will be important for the EU to know the issues that the Russian side would like to address as priorities in the future development of our dialogue” said the Minister of Public Order and Citizen Protection. Finally, Mr Dendias wished the Russian Authorities every success for the Sochi Olympic Games. “I am convinced that our meeting today will contribute to the strengthening of cooperation between the EU and Russia in the area of Freedom, Security and Justice”, concluded Minister Athanasiou.