|Updated: 16-May-2003||NATO Press Releases|
(2003) 045 9 May 2003
On May 22-23 key leaders of the Western Balkans and the International Community will gather in Ohrid, in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (1) to agree a common strategy to crackdown on one of the regions key problems, cross border organised crime. The currently inadequate border security of much of the region has created major problems of drug smuggling, gun-running, human trafficking, and political violence, and poses one of the main threats to stability in the Western Balkans, as well as leading to further problems in the rest of Europe. The regions leaders are now coming together to map out a practical way ahead that emphasises how regional rivalries are being replaced by co-operation.
The May 22-23 conference, on Border Security and Management, is being hosted by the government of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (1), and supported by the Stability Pact, NATO, the EU and the OSCE. It will take place in the historic city of Ohrid, which was also the site of the ground breaking Ohrid agreement of 2001, which averted the threat of civil war in the country.
The conference aims to help the countries of the region to strengthen regional cooperation in order to combat smuggling, human trafficking and terrorism. Among those attending will be a number of Prime Ministers from the region, other foreign, defence and security ministers, as well as key international figures such as Lord Robertson, the NATO Secretary General. The conference will facilitate access to advice and support in the fields of smuggling interdiction, the application of the rule of law and security sector reform. Together with the other international organisations, NATO wants to help the countries in the Western Balkans to upgrade their border management and control systems to European standards with open and secure borders.
Lord Robertson said of the conference, "I am delighted at the initiative of the government in Skopje in organising and hosting this event, and we are glad to do everything we can to help. It's not just a symbol of how former enemies are now together facing up to common problems, but they are also looking for practical solutions. This kind of event points the way ahead for whole region."
Arrangements are being made for journalists to fully cover this important event, and a media advisory will soon follow.
In the meantime further information can be obtained from the NATO Press and Media Service in Brussels – tel. +32 2 707 50 41, fax +32 2 707 50 57 or Ingimar Ingimarsson at the NATO Civilian Liaison Office in Skopje – tel +389 2138 999 or the Stability Pact website: www.stabilitypact.org
Venue of conference:
Hotels Metropol & Bellevue - Ohrid
On both days of the conference, a press conference will be held. Details will follow in a second press advisory as soon as the agenda is finalized.
Media are kindly asked to accredit themselves with the Macedonian Government’s
Agency for Information in Skopje.
News and information will routinely be posted on the NATO website.