Skopje, North Macedonia: Given the longstanding commitment to dialogue and cooperation held by the South East Europe (SEE) and the Silk Routes Region Working Groups, a joint meeting was arranged on 14th October 2021. Unfortunately due to COVID-19 related issues, the meeting was held virtually.
Important common topics that were addressed at the meeting were – safe, dignified and sustainable return and reintegration; additional resources to build capacities within their national governments and migration related institutions; as well as better information and support for migrants stranded along main routes. It was agreed that holistic cooperation between both regions can ultimately lead to more effective action against criminal groups involved in smuggling of migrants and trafficking in human beings.
Through several interesting presentations from officials from countries across both regions, the participants were apprised of the several practical efforts underway – be it legislation, policy or law enforcement cooperation, development of referral systems, protection procedures, and national and multilateral capacity building efforts. Moreover, there was a clear expression of interest for cooperation, especially due to the presence of a substantial number of migrants from Silk Routes countries in South East Europe, who are either in need of protection or others who need to be returned to their Countries of Origin. Thus the need for more readmission agreements between countries of origin, transit and destination as well as liaison with link offices of Silk Routes countries (such as those of Pakistan) in the SEE region and other European countries for rapid information sharing and operational cooperation were identified as key areas for cooperation. It must be noted that link offices could serve as single points of contact for law enforcement liaison. This meeting also served to lay the groundwork for the establishment of the Whole-of-Route focused Community of Law Enforcement Practitioners (COLEP), which has been conceived under the aegis of the Reference Group of the Budapest Process and is a project that addresses many of the challenges outlined for both the South East European and Silk Routes countries in terms of law enforcement cooperation.
This meeting yet again showed how the Budapest Process is the ideal platform to reconnect both regions via their working groups. The Budapest Process enjoys the trust of its participating countries as it is a long standing and progressively evolving inter-regional dialogue on migration that has aimed to address the foremost issues of migration management and has translated the dialogue intro concrete projects on the ground.
The Budapest Process is an inter-regional dialogue on migration chaired by Turkey and co-chaired by Hungary. It is funded by the European Commission, Finland, Hungary, Norway, Poland, Switzerland and Turkey.