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On Slovenia's initiative, the European Police College (CEPOL) is organising a conference on police cooperation with the Western Balkan countries in the field of education and training of police officers, which will be held today and tomorrow in Bled.

The conference was opened by Zvonko Zinrajh, State Secretary at the Slovenian Ministry of the Interior, who welcomed the participants and gave an introductory speech*:


"Ladies and Gentlemen!

I would like to express to you my warm welcome on behalf of the Slovenian Presidency, the Ministry of the Interior and the Slovenian Police.

It is my honour to open the conference of the European Police College here in Bled. We consider this conference to be very important, since it is the first time directors and representatives of police academies from the Western Balkan countries and EU Member States have met.

The European Police College was established to gather national police colleges in a network at the European level. Today, with this conference, these contacts will be enlarged to our nearest neighbours as well. We put this in our Presidency programme because we think that well-trained and organised police forces are of utmost importance for safety and stability in the Balkans, which consequently means better security for the whole of Europe as well.

The Slovenian Ministry of the Interior recently visited Serbia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro. Together with the European Commission, we launched the start of dialogue for a visa-free regime with these countries.

To start this dialogue, three main conditions had to be met:

  • effective control of the national borders to stop illegal immigration;
  • an effective fight against crime; and
  • the introduction of biometric passports.

To meet the first two conditions, these countries had to show that their police are effective in fighting modern crime, trafficking and illegal migration. Allow me to say that I was astonished by the presentations of the ongoing reforms in the border and criminal police. The start of visa-free dialogue is already recognition of these processes.

But, now we are only at the beginning. For these reforms to be successful, you must invest in police training. This is why your role is of utmost importance. The good results of your work will bring more safety to your citizens and will mean more safety for Europe as a whole

The second main role of the police is stability. The area of the Balkans is known to have been subject to ethnic conflicts throughout the centuries, and sometimes some European politicians think that Europe should further isolate the Balkans with a stricter visa regime, stricter controls at the Schengen border, etc., hoping that these problems will resolve themselves.

My reply to these ideas is that Europe was only 60 years ago in the same situation - centuries of conflicts that led to the Second World War. Yet, the European Union finally brought peace and stability to Europe. It is my firm conviction that the same formula can bring stability to the Western Balkans. To achieve this, you must develop a modern, tolerant and multi-ethnic national police force that will represent the stability of your countries. This is the role of police academies, and today you have here colleagues from EU Member States who can offer you 60 years of experience. This is why we decided to host this conference. We want to contribute to the process towards safety and stability as much as we can.

The Slovenian Ministry of the Interior has good and stable contacts with all ministries of the interior of the Western Balkan countries. I use every occasion to explain to my European colleagues about the major police reforms that are going on in the Balkans. The same is true for the directors of police: today is the time for you, directors of police academies, to start close cooperation. Your contacts will promote free movement of knowledge and experiences, and we consider this to be one of the most important achievements of our Presidency.

Slovenia shares a common present with the European Union today, but not long ago, we shared a common past with some of the countries from the Balkans present here today. Our police organisations had the same training systems and we worked in accordance with the same legislation. Slovenia was able to avoid the recent conflicts that erupted in this area, which gave us the opportunity develop more quickly and to join the European Union; however, today our southern neighbours are following on the same path towards the European perspective. The road that Slovenia took brought us into the European Union and the Schengen area. Your governments have decided to follow this same road, and we are therefore always at your disposal to share with you our experience.

That is why I appreciate this conference, which will hopefully favour establishing contacts, building trust, and strengthening the need for professional cooperation and networking among police academies and police officers of the European Union and the Western Balkans countries. Cooperation is the key to your and our success.

As you know, the Schengen area was recently enlarged and represents today the largest area in Europe without internal controls. But, inside this area of free movement of goods, people and capital, there is also movement of crime. Criminal groups use all opportunities of the internal area without control to spread their activities across national borders.

We can successfully prevent and fight this crime only with police cooperation among all countries.

Education and training is intervention for the future, and we have to prepare police officers for their future work and demands. It is impossible to predict all changes and future needs; therefore, we have to teach them how to become constant and flexible learners.

Police education systems differ significantly even within EU Member States. The exchange of information, experience and curricula between police education institutions all over Europe is important so that our police officers will be able to understand each other and cooperate more easily.

In Slovenia, we are well aware of the importance of international police cooperation in the fight against crime and of the role police training can play in this field. That is why we increased the number of Slovenian police officers participating in different training activities organized by CEPOL in the last year.

Learning is not just about gaining new knowledge; it is the ability to adapt to a new environment, to know how to assess contingencies, how to make decisions, and how to react in specific situations. I hope and desire that in the following two days you will have ample opportunities to discuss these topics and find possibilities for sustainable cooperation in this field.

The police cooperation - Western Balkans CEPOL conference represents one step further towards cooperation and sharing information, knowledge and experience. I call on the governing board of CEPOL to do everything necessary to include police officers from the Western Balkans countries into the annual programme of CEPOL. This way they would have the possibility to be invited and to follow your regular working programme. If you like our hospitality, we are more than happy to host any such events in this configuration in the future as well.

I wish you a successful conference and thank you for your attention."


On today's agenda are presentations of CEPOL, Europol, Council of Europe, OSCE and Frontex, and training programmes of police organisations of the Western Balkan countries.


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