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Supporting the fight against fraud with EU money: Interagency conference held in Belgrade

In the light of increasing closer financial ties between the European Union and the Western Balkans, it is important to also step up the fight against fraud with EU money. Against the background of a couple of concrete investigations in this area, the regional EU co-funded project CSCWB took the initiative to intensify the ties between the beneficiaries in the Western Balkans and the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF). While preparing the conference, that took place at the premises of the Ministry of Finance of Serbia in Belgrade on 21 and 22 March 2023, it appeared that a similar idea was initiated by the Serbian Anti-fraud Coordination Service (AFCOS) and the GIZ Serbia project “Public Finance Reform – Agenda 2030”. Consequently, it was decided to join forces and in this way an attendance of around 80 participants from all beneficiaries in the Western Balkans could be guaranteed.

During the conference the relationship between OLAF and national law enforcement and non-law enforcement authorities was discussed at three different stages in the process: the pre-investigation phase, the investigation phase and the post-investigation phase. Also the connections between the administrative investigation and the criminal investigation was discussed at length as well as the role of the EPPO. The key words in the discussion were complementarity, coordination, exchange of information and communication. The presentations by high-level representatives from OLAF as well as from DLAF (anti-fraud office of Romania) and DNA (Romanian Anti-Corruption Department) in order to also share the perspectives from an EU member state were very much appreciated by the participants (officials from various AFCOS offices, law enforcement authorities and public prosecution offices) and raised a lot of interesting discussions.

At the end of the conference it was concluded that more exchange about this joint effort to fight fraud with EU money is definitely needed. CSCWB would like to thank all participants and in particular Serbian AFCOS, GIZ Serbia, OLAF experts and Romanian colleagues for the excellent contributions and cooperation during the interesting regional conference.

The project CSCWB IPA 2019 is implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the Italian Ministry of Interior (IMoI) and the Centre for International Legal Cooperation (CILC), co-financed by the European Union, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the Italian Ministry of Interior. Its main objective is to strengthen the cross-border cooperation to counter serious and organised crime in the Western Balkans with institutions and networks of the EU.