“The EU must continue to actively support, financially or with other resources, judicial reform in the Western Balkans”, noted Greek Minister of Justice, Transparency and Human Rights Charalampos Athanassiou during a EU-Western Balkans Ministerial Forum of Justice and Home Affairs, which concluded on 20 December in Budva, Montenegro under the auspices of the Lithuanian EU Presidency.
Minister Athanassiou, who represented the incoming Greek Presidency of the Council of the EU, emphasized the need to provide Western Balkan countries with expertise and training and to help disseminate best practices. A “corporate culture” has to be built in these countries based on understanding and applying properly the acquis communautaire, which includes the principles of judicial independence, equal access to justice and respect of procedural rights. “Despite the remarkable progress achieved in recent years, the effective implementation of institutional and legislative changes still remains a challenge”, said Mr. Athanassiou with respect to combating corruption in the Western Balkans.
“Patience, time and will are needed”, stressed Minister Athanassiou and called on the countries of the region to further develop judicial cooperation with the EU in civil and criminal matters, so as to deal with serious transnational crimes (organized crime, corruption, drugs), protect the lives of citizens and strengthen their procedural rights.
In the framework of the event, Minister Athanassiou presented the priorities of the upcoming Greek Presidency in the field of Justice and met with Montenegro's Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Minister Duško Marković, Serbia’s Minister of Justice, Nikola Selaković, and the Italian Deputy Minister of Justice, Cosimo Ferri.