Jeremić: Fighting organized crime is priority

BEČIĆI -- Vuk Jeremić says Serbia, as chair of the Southeast Europe Cooperation Process and other regional organizations, will focus on the fight against organized crime.

Vuk Jeremić (Tanjug, file)
Vuk Jeremić (Tanjug, file)

The Serbian foreign minister was in Montenegro when he made the statement.

"We shall spare no effort to eliminate this threat to our security-its root causes, as well as its effects. Our zero-tolerance policy will continue unabated, come what may," Jeremić said in the seaside resort of Bečići at a meeting of SEECP foreign ministers.

He also warned that ultimate success could not be achieved without a much stronger common commitment, "for organized crime is like a virus: it spreads to where it finds least resistance."

"Tomorrow, the Republic of Serbia will assume the SEECP chairmanship," Jeremić reminded, adding that SEECP was the region's highest political forum which formed the backbone of cooperation in Southeast Europe.

This will make Belgrade the symbolic capital of regional cooperation in 2011, Jeremić said.

This year, aside from presiding over the SEECP, Serbia is chairing the Adriatic-Ionian Initiative, the Central European Initiative, and the Migration Asylum and Refugees Regional Initiative, before taking over responsibilities to lead the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization in 2012.

"I believe that the common aim of all the member-states of the SEECP is to transform our region into an area free of violence and instability, the minister pointed out," noting that by working more closely together, "we can achieve our goal of building a better future for Southeast Europe."

He commended relations in the region, but warned about the difficult economic situation in the EU, which has produced a number of political consequences for the region, which needs to continue the reform process.

Relations in South East Europe have rarely been better-and "we proudly celebrate the establishment of a new level of trust and understanding."

"Still, no strong wind is about to blow away the gathering clouds of malaise over many parts of the EU," he said.

"The economic circumstances in the Union are a real cause for everyone's concern. They have produced a number of political consequences for our region, which won't disappear overnight," the minister said.

Nevertheless, Jeremić noted, SEECP member countries should remain patient and sober and concentrate on the content of the accession process.

"Regardless of the EU's readiness or hesitation to expand beyond Croatia, I believe we should continue to look to the best-practices, standards and principles of good governance that exist in Europe," he said.

"The generational task that is ahead of us must be first and foremost to modernize our societies and prepare them to compete in the 21st-century's global arena, noted the minister, and under the circumstances, it will be increasingly important for the member states of the SEECP to work closer together on as many concrete projects as possible," said Jeremić.

"Even more than in recent times, we will have to look to each other for support," said Jeremić, adding this was not just about solidarity.

"It is about how to responsibly manage the expectations of our respective citizens in an environment beset by multiplying pockets of enlargement fatigue. Mutual assistance will no longer be something we merely talk about. A results-based approach to cooperation amongst ourselves is fast becoming a critical component in the transition strategy of every government in the Balkans," said the Serbian foreign minister.

One of Serbia's priorities during the chairmanship will be to improve the dialogue and cooperation between SEECP and European institutions, Jeremić noted.

A lot of attention will be given to regional education, science and cultural projects within the council for regional cooperation, he added.

Serbia will focus particularly on refugee issues, including property rights, said Jeremić. Belgrade will also host a series of meetings on how to develop an environment protection strategy and to discuss an initiative aimed at better prevention and response to natural disasters.

In that sense, Serbia will also have an opportunity to promote an initiative that is an integral part of the solution to the environmental challenges the region faces, and that is the regional center for emergency response in Niš, southern Serbia, Jeremić added.

The Southeast Europe cooperation process is a regional initiative started in June 1996 during a meeting of Southeast European foreign ministers in Sofia. It promotes and strengthens good relations between neighbors and is meant to help transform the region into an area of peace, security, stability and cooperation.

The initiative is made up of 12 countries: Serbia, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Greece, Croatia, Macedonia, Moldova, Romania, Slovenia and Turkey. Serbia is set to take over the chairmanship from Montenegro on Thursday.