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Crisis 1999
News Archive 1999

Western ministers voiced concern over organised crime in the Balkans

Foreign ministers from the 15-nation bloc meeting informally at a Lapland ski resort also discussed the rise in organised crime in the Balkans and voiced concern that some countries, particularly Albania, appeared to be safe havens for mafia-type groups.

On the issue of crime in the Balkans, a spokesman for the Finnish EU presidency told a news conference: "Many of the ministers are very worried about the situation as far as organised crime is concerned."

"They noted this is becoming a bigger and bigger problem and ways to effectively fight against it are limited," he said.

EU diplomats said some member states wanted NATO-led peacekeepers (KFOR) to toughen up policing of the Kosovo-Albania "badlands" border, where organised crime - gun running, racketeering and smuggling - was spiralling out of control.

Other ministers said the EU should press Albania to tighten curbs on organised gangs as a condition for closer ties with the Western bloc. "Some ministers said we should maybe implement some form of stronger conditionality in our relations with Albania as far as organised crime is concerned," the Finnish spokesman said.

Ministers also warned the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) to stick to an agreement to end violence in the southern Yugoslav province and hand in its weapons by a September 19 deadline. "We must make clear that the KLA is responsible, by action or omission, for many of the violations that are happening there," Spanish Foreign Minister Abel Matutes told reporters, referring to attacks against Serbs and Gypsies in Kosovo.

Source: Free Serbia

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