Civil Society Forum of the Western Balkans Summit Series
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Source: Tirana Times

Facing uncertain future, region comes together at London Summit


In the context of the London Summit of the Berlin Process, the Prime Ministers of several countries, including the Balkans, signed a Joint Declaration reaffirming their commitment to support efforts to account for 12,000 people still missing due to conflicts in former Yugoslavia.

Photo: © European Union, 2018/ Photo: Niklas Halle’n

“The Joint Declaration is a crucial document because it upholds the rights of all families of the missing to truth, justice and reparations,” Director General of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) Kathryne Bomberger said after the signing ceremony at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

Other countries that signed the cooperation included Germany, the UK, Austria, France, Italy, Slovenia and Poland.

Before PMs signed the agreement, Bomberger and the UK’s Head for Europe and the Americas Alan Duncan met at the FCO with Balkan countries’ heads of institutions that are responsible for accounting for the missing.

The ICMP led the initially successful regional effort which made it possible to account for 28,000 out of 40,000 people who were missing after the conflict, numbers that have not been achieved anywhere in the world.

Bomberger noted the Joint Declaration signed on Tuesday by the PMs recognizes the centrality of “resolving the fate of the missing in a manner that is commensurate with human rights and the rule of law,” like the ICMP’s Declaration on the Role of the State in Addressing the Issue of Persons Missing as a Consequence of Armed Conflict and Human Rights Abuses, signed in 2014 by the Presidents of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia.

The EU and the UK have also pledged funds to facilitate implementation of the plan, while the ICMP has started work with the relevant institutions to develop a plan that will expedite the process of accounting for the 12,000 persons still missing.

Meanwhile, the project’s participating countries will present an annual report on implementation of the plan in the context of the Western Balkans Berlin Process, while national institutions will provide regular updates on their joint efforts at regional meetings with representatives of associations of the families of the missing.

The Berlin Process was launched in 2014 by Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel as a multilateral mechanism that would help Western Balkan countries to prepare for their future EU membership by focusing on core challenges.

The issue of missing persons dominated Tuesday’s agenda of this fifth Berlin Process Summit.

During the rest of the conference, participating Interior and Security Ministers also agreed that their countries share many security threats, including organized crime, violent extremism, terrorism and its financing, corruption, money laundering, smuggling of migrants and human, drug and weapon trafficking, among others.

In a joint press statement, they said that “we recognised that these threats were transnational and increasing in complexity. We therefore reaffirmed our commitment to deepening regional cooperation and enhancing our collective response.”

In addition, state representatives also agreed to further strengthen information exchange on above mentioned criminal activities.

“In this context we agreed to maximise the use of international police and judicial cooperation tools in line with EU acquis and best practices. We welcomed the objective in the Western Balkans Strategy of strengthening cooperation on security and rule of law between the Western Balkans and the EU, including with EU agencies,” the statement read.

In conclusion, the governments of the Western Balkan six countries also agreed to establish a Berlin Process Security Commitments Steering Group that will monitor the delivery of the undertaken commitments.