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HK, EU Discuss Readmission Agreement

Hong Kong Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee and European Union (EU) Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs Antonio Vitorino opened the first meeting of the Joint EC-Hong Kong Readmission Committee in Brussels on Monday.

According to a government press release, the meeting was convened to discuss details on the implementation of the agreement between the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) of the People's Republic of China and the European Community on the readmission of persons residing in each other's territories without authorization.

The agreement was signed in November 2002 and came into effect on March 1, 2004. It is the first agreement of its kind entered into by the European Union.

"The agreement demonstrates the determination of both sides to tackle illegal immigration, and opens the door to greater cooperation between Hong Kong and the EU in immigration matters," Lee said in his address to the committee.

The readmission agreement flows from a reciprocal pact between Hong Kong and the EU to permit visa-free visits to each other's territories. It allows them to ensure the rapid and effective identification and return of people illegally entering or remaining in their respective territories

Vitorino said the recent entry into force of the EU-Hong Kong readmission agreement was an important milestone that would not only lead to a closer bilateral cooperation but would also give a significant push to the EU's efforts to develop a common policy on illegal immigration.

"We are very grateful to our partners and friends from Hong Kong for their high degree of confidence and willingness to cooperate in this important policy field," he said.

Earlier on Monday, Lee and Vitorino discussed international cooperation against terrorism and other cross-border crimes, and explored opportunities for further exchanges in other areas of common interest.

Lee is on a duty visit to Brussels on September 20 and 21. He will also represent the HKSAR government in signing a mutual legal assistance agreement with the Belgian government.

(Xinhua News Agency September 20, 2004)

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