On 22 October, Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders and Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson took part in the EU-Western Balkans ministerial videoconference on Justice and Home Affairs, organized by the German Presidency of the Council. Commissioner Johansson and ministers from the region discussed co-operation on migration management, including: intensifying regional information exchange between Western Balkans partners, improving information systems, and enhancing reception and asylum capacity in light of the New Pact on Migration and Asylum.
Neighbourhood and Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi also participated in this first discussion. Following a presentation by Europol on ongoing counter-terrorism co-operation in the region, ministers also discussed current challenges linked to terrorism and violent extremism, including progress on the implementation of the Joint Action Plan on Counter-terrorism for the Western Balkans.
Finally, enhancing operational co-operation to tackle organized crime was discussed, as will the EU’s new Action Plan on firearms trafficking and the Action Plan on drugs. In the afternoon, Commissioner Reynders joined the ministers to discuss the pandemic and its impacts on the justice systems and fundamental rights, including the use of distance communication technologies in trials, guarantees in place to ensure respect of the right to a fair trial, protection of victims of domestic violence, procedures to uphold rule of law, and the proportionality of measures taken to mitigate the crisis.
Ministers then focused on access to justice in the digital age, in particular the benefits of digitalization of justice that could enhance the quality and efficiency of justice systems, as well as specific areas where further efforts are needed in the region. Finally, Commissioner Reynders updated participants on the implementation of two projects for the measurement of justice system performance in the region and presented the latest developments on rule of law within the Union, including the first Rule of Law Report.