dragan mektić - BiH.png
Photograph: screenshot / youtube.com

Western Balkan countries will soon adopt a joint anti-terrorism strategy in the implementation of which the most influential European Union countries will help, Bosnian Security Minister Dragan Mektic and the French government's envoy for the fight against organised crime and anti-terrorism coordinator, Michele Ramis, said in Sarajevo on Wednesday.

Ramis arrived in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) to see its authorities' readiness to effectively deal with terrorism. After talks with Mektic, she told reporters terrorism was a threat which knew no borders, so all the states facing it should cooperate closely. These are cross-border threats which are a problem for a whole string of countries, she said.

Mektic said BiH strongly advocated a regional approach in dealing with terrorism. He said the interior ministers of western Balkan countries would sign a statement on a joint anti-terrorism strategy in Slovenia on April 17-18 as part of the Brdo Process. The police ministers of France, Germany and Italy are also expected to attend. 

"We are expected to sign a political statement on the establishment of a regional initiative for fighting terrorism," he said, adding that after the signing, experts would agree specific ways of fighting terrorism and arms trafficking.

Ramis said the French government strongly supported the initiative. We are very interested in the regional initiative and in all other aspects of the fight against terrorism and arms trafficking, she said, adding that stronger cooperation would be in the interest of everyone involved in the fight against terrorism.

She recalled that France was the victim of brutal terrorist attacks last year and that it faced the threat posed mainly by returnees from the Syrian war zone. We know the routes by which arrive illegal weapons which are used for terrorist attacks, she said, adding that coordination was necessary so that there were no gaps in efforts to stop those channels.

Mektic said the returnees from the Syrian and Iraqi war zones who fought for Islamic State there were a problem for BiH too, but that its security services believed that the problem of those fighters could not be separated from terrorism financing, which is linked to money laundering.

Mektic said the deradicalisation of returnees from foreign war zones was another big challenge for BiH, so its authorities are trying to come up with a comprehensive approach to make it more effective.

At a Sarajevo conference organised by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, the findings were presented of a study on the dangers which jihadists and returnees from foreign war zones pose in the region. The study shows that in recent years at least 900 persons from BiH, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia and Albania went to fight for Islamic terrorist organisations, of whom about 300 have returned home.

Eighteen such persons have been indicted or tried for crimes they committed in the process, but the study says that those measures are not enough, as the penalties are mainly mild and not enough is done to deradicalise those persons to eliminate the danger of their extremism in the future.

The study says it is necessary to deal with "closed communities" from which potential terrorists are recruited.

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