Macedonian law enforcement practitioners dig deeper into EMPACT

Macedonian law enforcement practitioners dig deeper into EMPACT

CSC WB in close cooperation with the Europol National Unit of North Macedonia organized a national workshop for raising awareness about the EU Policy Cycle – EMPACT (“European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats”). Thus, representatives of the national Police, Public Prosecution, the Financial Intelligence Unit, the Customs and the Financial police had the opportunity to exchange their experiences and expectations with experts of Europol, the Spanish, the Italian and the Bulgarian police during a 2-day workshop held on October 6 and 7 in Ohrid, North Macedonia.  

The workshop’s goal was to get the national participants well acquainted with the different stages of EMPACT and its vast array of financial and technical possibilities in order to step up country’s active participation in the EMPACT cycle. To that aim, the audience had the opportunity to learn about the EU priorities for the fight against serious and organised crime, the importance of having a national EMPACT coordinator and the EMPACT related funding opportunities available to the Western Balkan countries. In addition, the participants were in a position to exchange on the process of annual planning of EMPACT operational actions as well as the EMPACT joint action days. Finally, the Macedonian participants were able to present and discuss about their national experience in participation in EMPACT activities up until now and draw lessons learnt for the future.  

The way forward for the national participation in EMPACT activities was outlined in several workshop conclusions which would be subsequently shared with the hierarchy of the national law enforcement institutions. Main outcomes of the discussions were the endorsement of the need to appoint a national EMPACT coordinator as well as to adopt a more coordinated and systemic approach to the national participation in the EMPACT cycle.   

The Head of the Europol National Unit, Ms. Biljana Chadikovska Tunteva stated: “Representatives of law enforcement agencies in the Republic of North Macedonia were encouraged to intensify multi-institutional cooperation and strengthen the strategic and operational approach to activities to combat priority threats by organized and serious international crime, by participating  in all phases of the EU Policy Cycle – EMPACT.” 

EMPACT is a security initiative driven by EU Member States to identify, prioritize and address threats posed by organized and serious international crime. The project CSC WB strives to support the participation of relevant Western Balkan institutions in the entire cycle of EMPACT activities – from planning to implementation.

 

Photo Source: CSC WB

Regional Network of National CT/CVE Coordinators of the WB – 8. Meeting

Regional Network of National CT/CVE Coordinators of the WB – 8. Meeting

The Regional Network of National Counter-Terrorism/Countering Violent Extremism Coordinators of the Western Balkan (RNNC) held its eight meeting on Tuesday, 12 October 2021. The host of the meeting was the Ministry of Security of Bosnia-Herzegovina, chaired by the EU Regional CT/Security Advisor, supported by the EU co-funded project Countering Serious Crime in the Western Balkans – IPA 2019. Together with the local authorities – the National Coordinators and their colleagues – all relevant EU services are participating in the network: EEAS, DG HOME, DG NEAR and the EU CT Coordinator’s Office.

The forum discussed the implementation of the six bilateral CT arrangements and the support to the WB authorities in their activities on resocialisation, rehabilitation and reintegration (RRR) of returning foreign terrorist fighters and their families, what is considered as priority by all sides. The National Coordinators elaborated on the progress achieved, challenges faced, the strategical and operational way forward. The importance of involving all governmental levels in the RRR was stressed, highlighting also the close cooperation with the NGO sector and the media.

The RNNC as a forum is characterised by a strong cooperation between all national, regional and international members – the interactions between the EU funded projects and the beneficiaries are increasingly feeding into national strategies of countering terrorism and combating serious and organised crime – being at the right time and the right place.  Further development and implementation of the Joint Action Plan for terrorism in the WB, based on the renewed CT Dialogues remains a priority for the Western Balkans and the EU, as stated during the meeting.

Kosovan* CT institutions reflect on the TE SAT report

Kosovan* CT institutions reflect on the TE SAT report

Kosovan* counter-terrorism actors took part in a workshop related to the Terrorism situation and trends report of the EU (TE SAT) which took place on 30.09.2021 in Pristina. To that aim, representatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, namely from the office of the national CT/CVE Coordinator and Counter-Terrorism units of the Police, Intelligence Agency, Finance Intelligence Unit and Special Prosecutor’s office sat together to discuss the national contribution to TE SAT, pursuant to their roles and responsibilities.

The national actors, ranging from strategical to operational level shared their views and jointly agreed on adopting integration approach in improving their contribution to TE SAT.

It was consensual that the Office of the National CT/CV Coordinator has the main role on the coordination of the reporting process concerning the agenda for countering terrorism and violent extremism. Participants were also invited to reflect and exchange views on the role that Europol can play and facilitate the national contribution to TE SAT report.

The purpose of the workshop was to assess the existing TE SAT methodology, with a special emphasis on how to support the WB6 in an improved, adequate assessment and inter-regional exchange.

TE SAT is a situation report prepared by Europol on annual basis, which describes and analyses the outward manifestations of terrorism, i.e. terrorist attacks and activities. All six Western Balkan beneficiaries, including Kosovo* provide qualitative and quantitative data for the CT situation in the region which is embedded in a separate section of the TE SAT report. Consequently, CSC WB intends to foster six workshops on the national contributions of each beneficiary to the TE-SAT report, having organized the second one in Pristina as explained above, after the first workshop was held in Skopje.

CSC WB will continue to support the coordination, cooperation, networking and sharing of best practices on a common threat basis within the Western Balkans and with the EU.

 

*This designation is without prejudice to positions on status and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence

Photo Source: CSC WB

Coordinated action day of the first joint investigation team (JIT) in Montenegro

Coordinated action day of the first joint investigation team (JIT) in Montenegro

On 28 September coordinated searches and arrests took place in Montenegro and Moldova to halt the activities of an organized criminal group suspected to be involved in money laundering. Searches that were carried out at 15 locations, 4 in Montenegro, resulted in seizures of 100 bank cards, dozens of SIM cards, nine mobile phones, two luxury vehicles worth about 100,000 euros, about 3,000 euros in cash, three laptops.

In Montenegro two persons suspected of having committed money laundering and in Moldova four persons suspected of drug trafficking were arrested. (Read more on the following link: https://www.gov.me/clanak/medunarodni-predmet-mig-u-crnoj-gori-uhapsene-dvije-osobe-zbog-pranja-novca)

The Joint investigation team of Montenegrin and Moldovan Authorities supported by the project Countering Serious Crime in the Western Balkans – IPA 2019 (CSC WB) and SELEC enabled cooperation and coordination in the case. It was for the first time that Montenegro concluded an Agreement on a joint investigation team. In Montenegro the Special Prosecutor in charge of the case, who also coordinated yesterday’s action, is the team leader. The team members are police officers of the Crime Sector of Montenegro.

CSC WB project has been significantly supporting Special Prosecutor’s Office of Montenegro since the beginning of this case starting by a suggestion on the best international instrument for judicial cooperation and continuing by legal and practical advice in negotiating the JIT agreement, its signing and amending. Several operational meetings with active participation and financial support of the project were held to discuss legal and operational questions as well as to prepare a roadmap for the upcoming activities.

 

Photo source: Police of Montenegro

Macedonian counter-terrorism institutions deconstruct the EU Terrorism situation and trends report

Macedonian counter-terrorism institutions deconstruct the EU Terrorism situation and trends report

Macedonian counter-terrorism actors took part in a workshop related to the Terrorism situation and trends report of the EU (TE SAT) which took place on 24.09.2021 in Skopje. To that aim, representatives of the national CT/CVE Coordinator and counter-terrorism units of the police, agency for national security and public prosecutor’s office sat together to discuss the national contribution to TE SAT and how to improve it. They jointly agreed to consider adopting a more multi-disciplinary approach in compiling the national contribution while having the CT/CVE Coordinator at the core of this activity. The National CT/CV Coordinator pledged to elevate this process higher on the agenda for countering terrorism and violent extremism in the country.

TE SAT is a situation report prepared by Europol on annual basis, which describes and analyses the outward manifestations of terrorism, i.e. terrorist attacks and activities. All 6 Western Balkan countries, including North Macedonia provide qualitative and quantitative data for the CT situation in the region which is embodied in a separate section of the TE SAT report. Consequently, CSC WB intends to foster 6 national workshops on the national contributions of each WB country to the TE-SAT report, having organized the first one in Skopje as explained above.

CSC WB will continue to support the coordination, cooperation, networking and sharing of best practices on a common threat basis within the Western Balkans and with the EU.

 

Photo Source: CSC WB

330 arrests during EU-wide Joint Action Days

330 arrests during EU-wide Joint Action Days

Spain, supported by Europol, coordinated Europe-wide joint action days targeting facilitation of illegal immigration, drug trafficking and trafficking of firearms. The operation took place between 15 and 18 September 2021. The operational activities involving 27 countries (17 EU Member States and 10 non-EU countries) were also supported by Eurojust, Frontex, INTERPOL and other international organisation.*
The intelligence-led and multidisciplinary approach of these EMPACT Joint Action Days contrib-uted to the results of this successful cooperation between a wide range of law enforcement authori-ties including police, immigration agencies and border control agencies.

The operational activities took place mainly in Southeast Europe, while other countries from across Europe participated by sharing intelligence and conducting operational actions at the na-tional level. The actions, involving almost 11 000 officers on the ground, led to 330 arrests related to different crimes including drug trafficking, the facilitation of illegal immigration, document fraud and the trafficking of firearms. The investigated activities also led to the detection of a num-ber of offences related to the facilitation of illegal immigration and related crimes and legal viola-tions such as visa fraud. Following the concerted actions, law enforcement authorities initiated 37 new investigations.

Overall results:
• 33 418 people checked
• 724 locations searched
• 22 605 vehicles inspected
• Seizures including 154 firearms (65 pistols, 86 rifles and assault rifles, 3 gas alarms), 57 hand grenades and explosives, 2125 pieces of ammunition, 719 kg of cannabis and 920 marijuana plants)

The Western Balkans region is a key hub for the trafficking of firearms into the EU. Multi-national criminal groups source the weapons predominantly from countries form the Western Balkans, where human resources with expertise in firearms are widely available. The firearms are then traf-ficked to the EU, mainly to Belgium, France, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands. The illegal trade in weapons is closely connected to the trafficking of drugs, specifically to cocaine traffick-ing. In some cases, criminal networks exchange weapons for drugs. They also use the weapons to gain and maintain control over the lucrative drugs markets. Weapons traffickers offer high quanti-ties and a wide range of firearms, including old and new military grade weapons. Some of the fire-arms are converted blank-firing weapons, imported from Turkey. Weapons are often smuggled as part of multi-commodity shipments or hidden in vehicles. Their prices in the Western Balkan are currently on the rise, though they are still a lot cheaper than in Western Europe.

Europol supported the coordination of the action days and facilitated the exchange of information between the participating countries. During the course of the operation, Europol set up an opera-tional centre to enable the swift exchange of operational information between the participants and provide live analytical support to field operatives. During the action week, Europol also deployed two experts to Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina to facilitate the real-time exchange of communication between the participating authorities.

CSC WB project, as co-leader of the Operational Action facilitated the mapping in the SEE Region of the cross border investigation on Firearms during the whole process, and as a follow up of the participation to JAD SEE already supported one operational meeting on a new case.

The Police of Montenegro reported about the action “MIG” and the importance of cooperating with the CSC WB project: https://www.gov.me/clanak/medunarodni-predmet-mig-u-crnoj-gori-uhapsene-dvije-osobe-zbog-pranja-novca

Photo source: Police of Montenegro

Article source: Europol

Highlight on police interoperability and international networking in Montenegro

Highlight on police interoperability and international networking in Montenegro

Between 28th of September and the 1st of October 2021 in Podgorica, Montenegro, the technical team led by the Italian Police Full Colonel Antonio Montanaro held a visit to the IT Sector of Montenegrin Police Directorate and Montenegrin Ministry of Interior in order to analyse its IT structures with the purpose to support the enhancement of interoperability of the IT systems used by the Police and Ministry and in order to verify the status of integration of the 24/7 international cooperation service. This is the fifth beneficiary country visited since the current pandemic restriction.  During the visit the experts met the Head of Department of International Operational Police Cooperation, Mr. Dejan Boljević, representative from the Department of International Operational Police Cooperation, Mr. Valentin Danaj, Head of National Cooperation Center, Mr. Zoran Lasica, Head of IT Technology Sector, Daro Bečanović and other representatives.

“Interoperability has our outmost attention and we expect to succeed in implementation of our structures that already proved being performing,” Mr. Dejan Boljević stressed at the beginning of the visit. Mr. Montanaro highlighted that mutual trust gained through networking and information sharing allowed and improved through technological enhancement is one of the key achievements for the modern – efficient and effective – international police cooperation.

 

Photo Source: IMoI

Workshop in North Macedonia – Relevance of strategic analysis and the SOCTA methodology

Workshop in North Macedonia – Relevance of strategic analysis and the SOCTA methodology

The workshop “The relevance of strategic analysis – SOCTA questionnaires” took place in Skopje, Republic of North Macedonia on 21 September 2021, aiming at raising awareness for strategic analysis, SOCTA methodology and process and SOCTA questionnaires.

The workshop involved representatives, mainly analysts, of all national law enforcement agencies and competent institutions that are part of the inter-institutional working group tasked to prepare the national SOCTA 2021-2024, being the Ministry of Interior, Customs Administration, Financial Police, Financial Intelligence Unit, State Environmental Inspectorate and Public Prosecution Office. The working group is entering an important – final stage in the development of the national threat assessment document, which in accordance with the defined dynamic, should be completed by December 2021. In this context, the event served as an advanced tool towards further strengthening the capacities of North Macedonian institutions to conduct strategic and operational criminal analysis in an EU-harmonised manner and in line with Europol’s SOCTA methodology. “A very important aspect of this event is the participation of analysts from the competent law enforcement agencies and alongside them prosecutors representing the judicial segment as a key ring in the fight against organized crime” as pointed out  by Ms. Anna Marinelli, CSC WB Component Leader.

The strategic analysis process, EU SOCTA 2021, Europol’s methodology and related questionnaires were elaborated in full. Also, practical examples were shown on how to fill in Europol’s questionnaires and analyze organized criminal groups, putting the focus on the relevant indicators to be used by the analysts.

“Strategic threat analysis is a powerful weapon in the hands of decision-makers, but at the same time, precisely defined and analyzed criminal threats can provide for successful completion of the operative activities and criminal investigations” concluded Mr. Vito Ingrosso, Major in the Italian Europol Unit, expert on the topic.

Photo Source: IMoI

Italian Ministry of Interior Project Management pays a visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina

Italian Ministry of Interior Project Management pays a visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina

The fifth beneficiary country to be visited by the Italian Ministry of Interior Project Leader, Italian national police Brigadier General Carlo Verdiglione was Bosnia and Herzegovina during September  13th-17th  2021.

At the first day in Sarajevo the delegation met the Deputy Director of Directorate of the Coordination of Police Bodies of Bosnia and Herzegovina Mr. Ivica Bošnjak who congratulated for a very well-planned project which will bring plenty of results. Later in the day the Deputy Director of the Federal Police Administration Mr. Ensad Korman recognized the active support of the project to SEPCA, encouraging to put regional strategic ideas into operational actions. Further on, the Director of the State Investigation and Protection Agency of Bosnia and Herzegovina Mr. Darko Ćulum emphasized how the project supported the Agency to position in international cooperation conveying the expectation for the future to hold progressively more operational meetings with the neighboring countries.

The final meeting of the day was held with the Minister of Security of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mr Selmo Cikotić who expressed his high appreciation for the project’s support to the country, highlighting that information sharing is in every aspect crucial for an intelligence led approach to counter serious crimes. “The project’s objectives are by all means subject of common interest for the region as a whole as security threats make all countries being interdependent. And interdependence creates an atmosphere in which cooperation in crucial, “ the Minister affirmed.

The day after, the Police Director of the Police of Republika Srpska Mr. Siniša Kostrešević stated his appreciation for the project efforts to enhance national capabilities for concrete international investigations.

On the third day of visit the Chief of the Police of Brcko District BiH Mr. Goran Pisić recognised the project’s efforts supporting all police entities in Bosnia-Herzegovina, underlining that the Police of Brčko District   is operational on the level of Bosnia-Herzegovina and internationally.

The last day of the visit the delegation met the Deputy Director of the Border Police of Bosnia-Herzegovina Mr. Fahrudin Halač who gave emphasis to the support provided by the project to several operations managed by the Border Police.

The last visit was paid to the IISG Director, Mr. Agron Sojati who shared the logic and the status of the regional needs mapping, stressing the importance of bringing  interoperability to the region and develop international relationships.

The Project Leader on behalf of the Italian Ministry of Interior presented the details of the project’s objectives and respective components, picturing the “status quo” of executed activities and the plan of future actions. Mr. Verdiglione thanked all the authorities for the continuous support to the project, stressing the proactive participation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the participation in all components related to activities of police bodies: “The project is willing to cooperate in a sustainable way with all involved stakeholders, respecting each peculiarity,” said Mr. Verdiglione.

Contemporarily the technical team, led by the Italian National Police Colonel Antonio Montanaro completed the gap analysis begun in July – meant to support the beneficiaries to improve their level of interoperability systems – paying a visit to IDDEEA and the responsible technicians of the IT, databases, network and communications of Republika Srpska and Brčko District.

“The project core concept is operational, directly or indirectly. Even interoperability of systems and databases will affect the national – and regional – security and related police field operations,” as highlighted by Mr. Montanaro.

Photo Source: IMoI

Simulation exercise on real-time exchange of information on critical infrastructure protection

Simulation exercise on real-time exchange of information on critical infrastructure protection

A real-time information exchange exercise for the Western Balkan region was taking place in Ohrid, Republic of North Macedonia from 12 to 15 September 2021. The exercise is organized with joint coordination and support of the Ministry of Interior of North Macedonia and the OSCE Mission to Skopje with participation of representatives of the relevant institutions of the Western Balkans. The event was opened by the Assistant Director of the Department for Uniformed Police, Mr. Shefik Bajrami who emphasized that the Ministry of Interior of Republic of North Macedonia remains fully committed and works with undiminished intensity and commitment to implement all activities aimed at uncompromised fight against crime.

The project Countering Serious Crime in the Western Balkans – IPA 2019 Project (CSC WB) was also taking active part in the exercise: two experts of CSC WB are directly participating and gaining on-spot insight of the dealings and actions within the exercise. As a follow up, the experts will draft an analytical report on the real-time exercise. This analysis will highlight good practises, however, also highlighting eventual omissions and improvements to successful tackling challenges of effective information flow through all international and regional channels of police cooperation.

“I would like to express special gratitude to the CSC WB whose representatives will prepare the report on the manner of real-time information exchange, which will represent a kind of a Roadmap for the way forward”, pointed out Assistant Director Bajrami.

On behalf of the CSC WB, the Resident EU Police Officer in North Macedonia, Ms. Elisa Di Ballo noted that the effectiveness of the structures and the organisation of information exchanges within the Western Balkans law enforcement agencies, as well as between agencies within the region, is very important in evaluating current situations and future opportunities, especially in the prospective of a future access of the Western Balkans to the European Union. “In this regard, the project CSC WB, through its experts in the field of information exchange, will participate and provide its contribution to carry out an analysis that allows identifying any strengths and weaknesses of the information exchange activities and continue to build together the foundations for obtaining a future model of success”.