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30 countries team up to combat crime in Western Balkans

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Earlier this month, the IPA/2017 Countering Serious Crime in the Western Balkans Project participated in and supported the Joint Action Days (JAD) Western Balkans 2019.

JAD is an international operation, involving 6,758 law enforcement officers: 6,708 officers on the ground and 50 officers in the Operational Centre at Europol’s headquarters. Law enforcement officers from 30 countries, as well as 8 agencies and international organisations teamed up to tackle the 4 EMPACT (European Multidisciplinary Platform against Criminal Threats) priorities: firearms trafficking, illegal immigration, document fraud and drugs trafficking.

The preparatory phase began in early 2019 with several operational meetings and intelligence-gathering activities organised by all the participants, as well as controls at selected border control points. Europol coordinated the deployment of mobile offices on the request of countries to analyse information on-the-spot.

From 5 to 8 September 2019, a coordination center was set up at Europol’s headquarters in The Hague to support the exchange of intelligence among the participants. During these days, 50 officers from almost all the EU Member States and Western Balkan countries, Europol, Frontex, INTERPOL and IPA/2017 Countering Serious Crime in the Western Balkans Project intensified checks in areas identified as high-risk, based on information collected and analysed in the coordination centre.

In total, 214,147 persons, vehicles, and premises were checked during the JAD. 175 individuals were arrested (26 arrests were made in the intelligence phase and 149 in the operational phase).

The operation was coordinated under the umbrella of EMPACT as part of the EU Policy Cycle, a four-year plan for the fight against serious and organized crime. It brings together police and law enforcement authorities of EU Member States, European agencies and international organizations to jointly strengthen Europe’s borders and internal security. The results and intelligence gathered will help in ongoing and future investigations.

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Vucic: I believe France will stick to its position on North Macedonia and Albania

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Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic, speaking in an interview with TV Pink’s “24 Sata” Thursday evening, said he believes France will stick to its stance on the membership negotiations and seek a new EU methodology on enlargement.

“I support North Macedonia and Albania to get the go-ahead to begin accession negotiations, but I am afraid it’s not possible. The procedures will be much more difficult for us as well, we expect tougher scrutiny. I believe I will meet with President Macron in Paris in November and I will be able to discuss the matter with him. Then, I will meet with Putin,” Vucic said in the interview.

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Greece’s first crematorium opens in Viotia

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Fifteen years after cremations were legalized in Greece, the country’s first such facility has opened in Ritsona, in Viotia, central Greece, and has already carried out 15 cremations.

Licensed in the summer of 2018 and inaugurated on September 30, the private venture is 70 percent owned by Crem Services SA. The nongovernmental Greek Cremation Society (GCS) holds a 30 percent stake.

Speaking to the press at the facility on Thursday, GCS president Antonis Alakiotis hailed its operation as a “historic event.”

“Changing funerary customs is one of the hardest and slowest shifts that any society can make,” he said, adding, “Our country… is unfortunately the last in the European Union to acquire a crematorium.”

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Kurti: Albanians’ national unification cannot happen in EU

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Albin Kurti, most likely the next prime minister of Kosovo, said on Wednesday that merging of Albanians could not happen in the European Union, but an idea on confederation could exist.

Self-determination (Vetevendosje) party came first in Sunday’s general elections, and the incoming prime minister,  who was once a vocal advocate for merging Kosovo and Albania, now advocates merger of  Kosovo and Albania into a federation similar to Germany, with decentralized institutions.

“I can’t say that the national unification happens in the EU,” said Kurti, He said he plans to take charge of the EU-led talks previously run by President Thaci, his main political enemy.

Kurti earlier hinted revision of all agreements which Pristina and Belgrade signed during the EU-mediated dialogue on normalization of relations, which has been on hold since last November, following Pristina’s decision to introduce 100% import tariffs on goods from Serbia and BiH.

Kosovo opposition Vetevendosje party is set to come first in the parliamentary election with 26 percent of votes, slightly ahead of the Democratic League of Kosovo party which won 25 pct of votes, preliminary results showed.

Political prisoner turned parliamentary troublemaker Albin Kurti is within reach of becoming Kosovo’s next prime minister after an electoral triumph that could reshape the political scene in Europe’s youngest country. According to preliminary results, Vetevendosje came first with nearly 26%, just ahead of another opposition party, the centre-right LDK. The pair say they are open to talks on a coalition to secure a ruling majority.

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