Albanian State Police Receives Forensic Equipment

A handover ceremony of forensic material from the IPA/2017 Countering Serious Crime in the Western Balkans Project to the Albanian State Police took place on 10 December 2019 in Tirana. The IPA/2017 Project Leader Mr Gennaro Capoluongo attended, along with the Albanian Deputy Minister of the Interior Besfort Lamallari, representative of the European Union Delegation to Albania Francesco Torcoli and the Albanian Chief of Police Ardi Veliu, among others.

During the ceremony, Mr Veliu highlighted the valuable support the Albanian State Police has received from the IPA/2017 Project and the excellent level of cooperation they have maintained with one another. He emphasized the importance of the donation of the forensic material that will aid technical activities of the Albanian Police. Furthermore, the Chief of Police stressed the need for the Albanian Police to acquire, in a structured way, the list of condemned Albanian citizens reported or convicted in Italy for various crimes.

The representative of the EU Delegation Mr Torcoli highlighted not only the excellent outcomes achieved by IPA/2017 Project in Albania but also the Project’s strategic importance, well recognised by the European Union.

At the end of the ceremony, the IPA/2017 Project Team met the Albanian Minister of Interior Sander Lleshaj who thanked the Project for their considerable results, with particular reference to the support provided in the scope of investigative activities conducted by the Albanian Police and Judiciary.

Serbian Liaison Prosecutor to Take Position at Eurojust

The agreement between Serbia and Eurojust, signed by both parties on 12 November this year, passed the Serbian Parliament on 9 December and is effective as of 11 December, after all Serbian procedures relevant to the agreement were finalized and respective notifications were exchanged between both parties of the contract.

The Serbian Liaison Prosecutor to Eurojust is now expected to take up office at the Eurojust Headquarters in The Hague as of the first months of 2020.

Forensic Agencies in Bosnia Receive Equipment Donation

The Agency for Forensics of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Republika Srpska and the Interior Ministry of Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina received sets of forensic equipment – including tools for crime scene investigation, forensic lights and photos – as a donation from the IPA/2017 Countering Serious Crime in the Western Balkans Project. A handover ceremony took place in Sarajevo at the Ministry of Security on 6 December 2019.

The Donation Agreement was signed by Minister of Security Dragan Mektić and the IPA/2017 Project Leader Mr. Gennaro Capoluongo. Italian Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina Mr. Nicola Minasi and representatives of forensic and law enforcement agencies were also present. Minister Mektić highlighted that the equipment will significantly help the forensic agencies and their work in the fight against organised crime. Project Leader Mr. Capoluongo pointed out that organised crime is a global challenge and that contemporary equipment, good cooperation and an efficient exchange of information is necessary to counter it.

You may read more about the donation of equipment (in Bosnian) on the website of the Bosnian Ministry of Security.

European Judicial Network Contact Points Discuss Regional Cooperation Possibilities

A meeting of European Judicial Network (EJN) Contact Points of the European Union and Western Balkan region took place at the Eurojust premises in the Hague on 4 December 2019. The purpose of the meeting was, amongst others, to discuss the future cooperation between the EJN and Western Balkan beneficiaries and possibilities to deepen and intensify it.

Topics such as Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) requests, extradition and confiscation were analyzed from different perspectives. Participants exchanged opinions about how to make the EJN Contact Points in the Western Balkans more visible and raise awareness about their functions and competencies. Technical questions regarding the use of the EJN website were also raised, along with possible solutions.

Representatives of the IPA/2017 Countering Serious Crime in the Western Balkans Project took part in the meeting, reported about the achievements of the project so far and assured further support to the EJN, specifically through the organization of regional meetings of EJN Contact Points.

Legal English Program Successfully Completed in North Macedonia

On 3 December 2019 in Skopje, representatives of the North Macedonian Public Prosecution Office, Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Interior came together to award certificates to those who completed the Legal English Course supported by the IPA/2017 Countering Serious Crime in the Western Balkans Project.

It was the celebration of the successful end of a yearlong language programme which was completed by 117 officials dealing with issues of international judicial and police cooperation in their everyday work. The courses were implemented by the Centre for Foreign Languages based in Skopje.

Chief Public Prosecutor Mr. Ljubomir Joveski opened the ceremony and representatives of the IPA/2017 Project Team had the opportunity to present the results of project’s efforts undertaken in the country for the past 2 years. The language program itself was assessed as a valuable endeavor to strengthen the capacities for direct international cooperation in investigations of organised crime.

Common Operation in Bosnia Assists Europol in Dismantling Migrant Smuggling Network

A common operations exercise, codename “BIH 2019”, took place in various locations in Bosnia from 20 – 28 June 2019. Officers from 7 countries, supported by representatives of European Agencies (Europol, Frontex) and international organisations (DCAF, IOM) took part in the operations. They focused on detecting illegal crossings of state border and conducting interviews with migrants, with the aim to obtain and exchange information on serious and organised crime that has accompanied the enhanced migratory flow.

The officers were able to conduct debriefing interviews with the migrants in the migrant centres in Bihać (Bira, Sedra, Boriči) and Miral in Velika Kladuša, and also with migrants that were apprehended in Trebinje. This information revealed a large amount of information about the migrants. So much so that Europol based one of their supported operations, entitled “Monika”, on the information acquired during the activities. As a result, an entire migrant smuggling network was dismantled. You can read more about the arrests (in Montenegrin) at RTCG or CDM.

In addition to information gathering, the BIH 2019 exercise also managed to establish a good system of exchanging and checking information with the Europol database. This has improved the cooperation between Bosnia and Europol in detecting ongoing criminal operations and criminal frameworks.

The operation, implemented by the Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance (DCAF), is jointly financed by the European Union and the Federal Republic of Germany on the basis of a grant agreement with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GmbH) within the IPA/2017 Countering Serious Crime in the Western Balkans Project.

Countering Environmental Crime Workshop: Enhancing Commitments in Kosovo

The Workshop “Countering Environmental Crime” took place in Pristina from 26 – 27 November 2019 and was supported by the IPA/2017 Countering Serious Crime in the Western Balkans Project, the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) and the Police Directorate of Kosovo.

The workshop aimed to provide an updated analysis of the activities carried out by the Law Enforcement Agencies in the Western Balkans engaged in the fight against environmental crime. The workshop was an occasion to present the best practice of the Italian National Anti-Mafia Directorate and Italian Carabinieri Specialized Operational Unit in the prevention and repression of environmental crime.

During the workshop, the application of a new multidisciplinary and integrated approach to combating environmental crime – “remote sensing” technology – was outlined using a real case, and an in-depth analysis of industrial flows to identify the dynamics of waste disposal in a waste disposal company was also discussed.

Participants shared their best practices and pointed out effective and cutting-edge methodologies used during investigations in their specific fields.  The workshop intended not only to raise awareness about the current and delicate issue related to illegal waste disposal, but also to enhance the commitment of the Law Enforcement Agencies in the Western Balkans when it comes to the fight against illicit waste disposal and illegal waste trafficking.

On the last day of the workshop, 27 November 2019, the President of the EU Commission Ursula Von der Leyen reflected the aims of the workshop when she made big promises to the Members of the European Parliament during her speech in Strasbourg. She stated that environmental protection is “our most urgent task”.

Serbian Officials Gain Technical Knowledge About Weapons in Italy

The IPA/2017 Countering Serious Crime in the Western Balkans Project supported the visit of 6 officials from the Serbian Ministry of Interior and Serbian National Proof House to Beretta S.P.A. (a privately held Italian firearms manufacturing company) and the Italian National Proof House, both located in Gardone Val Tropia, Italy. The visit was held from 25 – 26 November 2019, with the aim to share technical knowledge regarding the complicated procedure of marking and stamping weapons within the C.I.P (Permanent International Commission for Firearms Testing’s legislative framework).

Serbian officials also sought to acquire information about Italian firearm regulations, so to consider them in the finalizations of the draft of a new Serbian National Law. Serbia seriously considers the alignment of the above-mentioned legislation with European Directives to guarantee safety of civilian firearms, commercial ammunition and all other equipment operating by means of explosive substances.

The IPA/2017 Countering Serious Crime in the Western Balkans Project actively supports this process and looks forward to standing by Serbia during following related activities.

Western Balkans Highly Represented at 20th International Forum for Prosecutors

The 20th anniversary of the TAIEX (Technical Assistance and Information Exchange Instrument of the European Commission) -sponsored International Forum for Prosecutors on Fighting Cross-Border Organised Crime was held in Dresden, Germany from 25 – 27 November 2019. At this event the Public Prosecution Offices of the Western Balkans were represented at the highest level by the Prosecutors General and/or the Chief Prosecutors of the Special Prosecution Offices for Organised Crime.

The forum provided a meeting to exchange contacts, experiences and best practices among leading prosecutors from 36 countries (including those from European Union member states, the Western Balkans, ENPI-East and ENPI-South partners) and experts from various international organisations and projects in various areas of organised crime.

At the forum, Prosecutor General from Serbia Ms. Zagorka Dolovac presented Serbian experiences in international cooperation in combatting organised crime, and the Chief Prosecutor of the Prosecution Office for Combatting Serious Crime of Albania Ms. Donika Prela presented a number of successful cross-border investigations against the trafficking of drugs. The IPA/2017 Countering Serious Crime in the Western Balkans Project Manager Mr. Eric Vincken informed the forum about the set-up of the IPA/2017 Project and its major achievements.

Round Table in Tirana: How to Reduce Domestic Violence

On 25 November 2019, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the IPA/2017 Countering Serious Crime in the Western Balkans Project was represented by Seconded Prosecutor Karin Janssen in Tirana during a round table on the topic of violence against women. Representatives of OSCE, Albanian Prosecution, State Police and civil society gave presentations on the topic.

The discussion emphasized that special trainings for policemen and prosecutors, and reliable reports from supporting organisations and psychologists, are critical in reducing domestic violence. Cooperation amongst institutions and governing bodies (prosecution, judges, probation organisations, municipalities, public administration, schools, doctors and NGOs) is also crucial to create a structure of regularly evaluated guidelines and a safety net for victims, suspects and their families.