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Arms control and countering illicit arms trafficking remain high on the EU security agenda, notably after the terrorists' attacks in Paris and Brussels in recent years.
Last year the EU adopted its new Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) Strategy. This strategy puts a particular emphasis on the EU's Eastern and Southern Neighbourhoods in relation to countering illicit arms trafficking and its impact on both regional and European security.
This Strategy also stipulates that the EU supports a comprehensive approach to SALW control. In the case of the Western Balkans, the emphasis on good and updated legislation and sufficient investment in capacity building in general is of key importance.
These priorities are well reflected in the EU's Council Decision on support to the coordination and implementation of the Western Balkan Roadmap adopted by EU Foreign Ministers Council Decision in December 2017.
We welcome the opportunity to discuss the joint French-German Roadmap initiative on arms control in the Western Balkans, which the EU supports both politically and financially.
Politically the EU support to this initiative was expressed at the Ministerial conference hosted jointly by the French and German Foreign Ministers in Paris in December 2018. EU representatives from the European Commission and the EEAS actively attended the conference and pledged the EU's continued support to the Roadmap.
Financially the mentioned Council Decision from December 2017 decided on EU contribution of 4 million EUR spread over 3 years. The South Eastern and Eastern Europe Clearinghouse for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SEESAC) was asked to implement this work. It is another milestone on the successful EU-SEESAC cooperation path where we have been working together for more than 15 years on arms control in the Western Balkans. We are confident that our cooperation on this project will bring its fruits as well.
The EU welcomes that the Western Balkan Partners have developed action plans to implement the Roadmap. We also express the hope that the support the EU has provided to implement the Roadmap will indeed assist Western Balkan Partners in their efforts.
From the practical point of view it is important that once illegal weapons are seized, proper tracing and investigations take place and co-operation is facilitated across borders, both within the Western Balkans region and with the rest of Europe.
Here we can only praise once again the work of SEESAC and of our Western Balkan partners in building networks and co-operation between law enforcement agencies both within the region and in EU countries.
This is the way forward to tackle cross border crime and may serve as a model example for other regional efforts.
In conclusion Mr. President,
I confirm that the EU stands ready to continue to support the overall process and that the European Institutions have committed themselves to take into consideration the Roadmap also in its various activities in the Western Balkans.