Central Europe Activ

Border of Serbia and BulgariaThe two newest member states, Romania and Bulgaria have signed a trilateral agreement with Serbia to combat organized crime and improve border patrol. If the three country’s polices forces achieve anything of their goals that will also have a direct effect on the rest of the EU, as the criminal activities covered by the agreement are co-ordinated in the Balkans but in effect conducted in Western Europe.

The Balkans countries, with their disputed sovereignities and war-destroyed economies had become the scene of organized crime after the Cold War. While violent crime rates went down, these countries became the hosts of highly-organized crime, supporting Europe with drugs, prostitutes and illegal immigrants. While these countries are very highly integrated into the European market, and due to their high number of emigrants, are interwoven with European citizens on the personal level, they have so far been left out from the European integration. This makes the willingness of Serbia, the region’s key country, to co-operate with neighboring EU states on policing very welcome.

The three countries agreed to co-operate in preventing illegal economic activities, suspicious transactions, money laundering, smuggling, sexual exploitation, counterfeiting money, documents and trademarks. They will unite their efforts against cyber-crime, corruption
and extortion.

I believe that instead of making great political gestures that make Serbian and European voters suspect of hidden agreements, this kind of pragmatic, goal-focused co-operation is the best way to bring Serbia into the European camp.

Image credit: flickrinthehear.

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  1. I welcome this trilateral agreement as good practice on the ground. One integral part is still missing – Kosovo. After 1999 and the consequent Albanian dominance in Kosovo, Pristina has become the unquestionable narcotics capital of Europe. The lack of law coupled with the existence of a society reluctant to pursue organized crime, has created a “black hole” in the centre of the Balkans that primarily lives on criminal activities and the remittances of the Kosovo-Albanian Diaspora.

    The irony is that Kosovo has been international protectorate last nine years, it has had huge international police- and army force on its tiny area, it has got more development aid per capita than any other int.mission – aid which idea was capasity building of civil society. And the result: narcotics capital of Europe.

    Today the Balkan route has split in three – a northern path (Afghanistan-Pakistan/Iran-Turkey-Bulgaria-Romania-Hungary), a central, original path (Afghanistan-Pakistan/Iran-Turkey-Bulgaria-Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia/Serbia-Bosnia and Herzegovina-Croatia-Slovenia-Italy/Switzerland) and a southern route (Afghanistan-Pakistan/Iran-Turkey-Bulgaria-Macedonia-Kosovo-Albania-Italy/Switzerland). It is estimated that about 100 tonnes of heroin crosses southeastern Europe every year on its way to western Europe, of which 85 tons eventually makes it to the consumer, a flow estimated at US$25-30 billion.

    The Albanian Mafia is the main wholesale distributor of Afghan heroine. According to the Vienna-based United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Switzerland has historically been singled out as one of the countries most affected by ethnic Albanian heroin trafficking, due to the large expatriate population. There were an estimated 94,000 Albanian-speakers in Switzerland in 2000. In the late 1990s, Albanians were blamed for trafficking some 70 to 90 percent of Switzerland’s heroin supply into the country.

    Speaking about Albania itselve the past decade it is assumed that the country is facing a virtual take over of its institution by the organized crime that in its turn has been linked with international terrorism, with Al Qaeda withstanding. With the (Kosovo)Albanian criminal groups, the recent history illustrates the existence of a hybrid criminal form, meaning the interconnection between criminal activities and terrorism.

    And this – country take over and terrorism link – can be more serious for Europe than only trafficking, smuggling and drug distribution.

    AriRusila’s comment greatly contributes to an earlier post about Balkans’ organized crime – Daniel Antal

  2. Well, certainly this is a case for recognizing Kosovo, because whatever Serbia signs up for, it cannot act upon the agreement in Kosovo where it has no de facto sovereignty for at least a decade. Romania, another member of this agreement is one of the few European countries that do not recognize Kosovo either. Still, I believe that such instrument are they way forward for Serbian-European relations.

  3. Interesting development. Right now, as Romania is the EU border, our government has already launched public procurement bids for implementing the Schengen facility and for improving border security. Most likely increased efficiency will be seen in about 3 to 5 years. And because of EU accession there are greater efforts at improving Romania’s regional relations (The Regional Operational Programme of the EU is already functioning).

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