IPA/2017 CSCWB Project comes to a close

The IPA/2017 Countering Serious Crime in the Western Balkans Project has come to a close. We would like to thank our beneficiary institutions in the Western Balkans and our international partners for the successful cooperation, which has significantly contributed to the fight against serious and organised crime in the region and the EU.

We hope you and your loved ones stay healthy during this complicated time.

Your IPA/2017 Team

Serbian Liaison Prosecutor begins at Eurojust following Cooperation Agreement

The newly appointed Liaison Prosecutor for Serbia Ms Gordana Janicijevic has taken up her duties at Eurojust. Ms Janicijevic was officially introduced Monday, 10 March 2020 to the Eurojust College during a visit of Serbian Republic Public Prosecutor Ms Zagorka Dolovac.

Serbia is the 7th country to have a Liaison Prosecutor at Eurojust, the 4th country from the Western Balkan region. Liaison Prosecutors can open cases for support from EU Member States and participate in coordination meetings and coordination centres to step up the fight against cross-border crime. Since 2015, Serbia has already cooperated with Eurojust in nearly 150 cases, attended 22 coordination meetings and participated in 7 Joint Investigation Teams.

Read more about this meeting and the cooperation between Serbia and Eurojust at the Eurojust website.

SPIDER WEB Project Concludes with Reports and Best Practices

The SPIDER WEB (Strategic Project to Increase the Detection and Disruption of Environmental Crime in the Western Balkans) project has come to a close. The project aimed to increase awareness of the importance of tackling environmental crimes and promote the skillsets of all actors in the compliance and enforcement chain.

The SPIDER WEB project has made the following deliverables available, so that the collected knowledge can be shared and applied throughout the enforcement chain in Europe and even beyond:

Read the full article on the IMPEL (European Union Network for the Implementation of Enforcement of Environmental Law) website here: https://www.impel.eu/spider-web-closure-and-follow-up/.

SPIDER WEB 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.

Meeting with Eurojust President in North Macedonia

IPA/2017 Countering Serious Crime in the Western Balkans Project Representatives in Skopje and North Macedonian Public Prosecutor Lenche Ristoska met Eurojust President Mr. Ladislav Hammran during his visit to the judiciary institutions of North Macedonia on 20 February 2020. Mr. Hammran expressed his warm appreciation for the Project’s contribution to the cooperation between Eurojust and North Macedonia. The nomination and work of North Macedonian Liaison Public Prosecutor to Eurojust Ms. Lenche Ristoska was praised and considered a great success.

Potential cooperation in the area of digitization of criminal justice in the countries of the region were discussed to further strengthen capacities in the fight against organised crime. The IPA/2017 CSCWB Project will continue to promote the tools of Eurojust and support the work of Liaison Public Prosecutors from the Western Balkan countries.

Albania’s Fugitive Active Search Team Joins ENFAST as “Observer” Country

Two representatives from the Albanian State Police Fugitive Active Search Team (FAST) Unit participated at the European Network of Fugitive Active Search Teams (ENFAST) General Assembly Meeting. It was held from 11-13 February 2020 in Split, Croatia, on the 10th anniversary of the network`s creation.

During his opening speech, the Director General of the Croatian Criminal Police expressed his happiness that Albanian officers were in attendance. During the meeting participants engaged in important discussions about cooperation between the European State Police and national police units, to crack down on organised crime.

During the second day of the meeting, the Albanian delegation delivered a presentation about the FAST Albania Unit. Later, in the presence of all participants, a vote was taken whether to grant Albania observer status within ENFAST. The voting was unanimously positive, and without any reservations.

Albania is now an observer country to the ENFAST Network with no right to vote, or to be elected as a Steering Group Member or President, since Albania is not yet an EU member. However, the FAST is granted the right to access the European Platform for Experts (EPE).

Albania and Kosovo Strengthen International Legal Cooperation

A bilateral meeting between Kosovo and Albania on International Legal Cooperation took place in Prizren, Kosovo from 30-31 January 2020. The meeting focused on the implementation of bilateral agreements and Joint Investigation Teams, judicial cooperation and cross-border issues, recognition and execution of judgments, arrest warrants, and extradition. The meeting was used as an opportunity to discuss challenges encountered in practice and deepen cooperation in fighting organised crime.

The participating delegation of Kosovo consisted from representatives from the Ministry of Justice, Office of the Chief State Prosecution, Special Prosecution, Basic Prosecution Offices, and Basic Courts of Prishtina, Prizren, Gjakova and Ferizaj. The delegation from Albania included representatives from the Ministry of Justice, General Prosecution Office, Public Prosecutions Offices of Tirana, Dibra, and Tropoje, and the Special Prosecution on Anti-Corruption and Organized Crime (SPAK). The meeting concluded with recommendations of trainings for prosecutors and staff of the Ministries of Justice. It is also planned to continue and improve upon spontaneous exchanges of information and the frequency of meetings to discuss concrete cases.

EMPACT Firearms Kick-off Meeting: Coordinating Approaches for 2020

On 20-21 January 2020, the EMPACT Firearms OAP 2020 Kick-off Meeting was held at Europol Headquarters in The Hague. The meeting allowed all participating Member States of EMPACT Firearms to be formally introduced to the Operational Action Plan for 2020. Through EMPACT significant cooperation has been established between EU Member States, relevant institutions and agencies, and the Western Balkans beneficiaries, who were present at the meeting and will participate in a number of Operational Actions in the following year.

EMPACT works primarily on operational cooperation between the law enforcement agencies in Europe, the MENA region and South America. It also focuses on capacity building to ensure law enforcement agencies are adequately trained to fight organised crime, such as firearms trafficking and smuggling.

At this meeting, cooperation between EMPACT Firearms and the IPA/2017 Countering Serious Crime in the Western Balkans Project was presented and a short overview of the next phase of the Countering Serious Crime in the Western Balkans was given.

Under the umbrella of EMPACT, other organisations are also working together towards a coordinated and systemic approach to the fight against serious organised crime, including EC, Europol, INTERPOL, Frontex, eu-Lisa, UNODC, Small Arms Survey, Flemish Peace Institute, El PAcCTO Project, SEESAC and PCC SEE.

Fugitive Active Search Team in Albania Advances its Position and Capabilities

The IPA/2017 Countering Serious Crime in the Western Balkans Project has supported, from the very beginning, the establishment of the Fugitive Active Search Teams (FAST) Unit in Albania to enhance the competences of the Albanian State Police Officers engaged in the on-going investigations and search for fugitives.

Previously, in September 2019, the IPA/2017 CSCWB Project supported two Albanian FAST Unit representatives at the European Network of Fugitive Active Search Teams (ENFAST) Core Group Meeting in Krakow, Poland. During the three-day meeting, the most important issues related to activating searches for fugitives were addressed. Members of the ENFAST Group also expressed their positive vote for FAST Albania to participate as a “Candidate Observer Country” in the ENFAST working group. This vote represented a positive first step for FAST Albania to participate with the status of “Observer Country” in the future.

During November 2019, FAST Albania underwent a training about the FAST Operation Model, carried out by three Croatian experts. On 25 November, the functioning of the FAST Unit was regulated by the Instruction No. 684 “On the rules for conducting search and arrest of persons, as well as finding searched items”, signed by the Albanian Minister of Interior Sandër Lleshaj. Following this, the IPA/2017 CSCWB Resident Expert to Albania visited the FAST Unit Headquarters in Tirana.

Support from the Project to the Albanian FAST Unit will continue in the future. In February 2020, representatives from the Albanian FAST Unit will participate in the ENFAST group meeting in Croatia. During the meeting the status of Albania as an “Observer Country” shall be proposed and FAST Albania will be presented to other members of the ENFAST Group, who will make the final decision.

Strengthening International Cooperation in Financial Investigations

Under the umbrella of the “Improving Investigation Capacities of the Special State Prosecutor’s Office” Project, run by Center for Democratic Transition in Montenegro, and in association with the Center for Legal Research (CEPRIS) in Serbia, a study visit aimed to share knowledge about financial investigations to the Montenegrin Special State Prosecutors and the Montenegrin Special Police Unit was held.

The study visit took place from 18 – 21 December 2019 in Rome and was conducted at the Italian Ministry of Justice, Antimafia and Anti-terrorism National Directorate, Prison Service Department and Central Directorate for Criminal Police. The visiting delegation was impressed by the Italian expertise in the different units visited and appreciated the knowledge shared in relation to financial investigation best practises and methodologies.

The “Improving Investigation Capacities of the Special State Prosecutor’s Office” Project targets the Building Criminal Justice System theme, in the area of the fight against organised crime. Their main aim is to improve financial investigations and suppress money laundering in Montenegro by influencing public policies and improving investigative capacities of the Special State Prosecutor’s Office. This is achieved by increasing the knowledge of the public and stakeholders about financial crimes investigations and improving skills and capacities of the Special State Prosecutor’s Office, to best confront the challenges organised crime and corruption present.

International Criminal Network Dismantled in Skopje and Madrid

During a carefully planned, coordinated and executed international police operation involving North Macedonian, Spanish, Colombian and US law enforcement agencies, an international criminal network composed of criminal associates from North Macedonia, Spain, Colombia, Belgium and other countries was successfully dismantled. The operation was simultaneously conducted in Skopje and Madrid on 18 December 2019.

The police of North Macedonia, in coordination and cooperation with the police services of Spain and Colombia, as well as with the US Drug Enforcement Administration, arrested in Skopje two persons – members of an international organised criminal group involved in the transportation of 700 kg of cocaine from Columbia to Spain, with an estimated worth of around 20 million Euros. At the same time, in a parallel operation performed in Madrid, Spanish police arrested another three persons – members of the same international organized criminal group and seized 700 kg of cocaine. The entire international police operation was coordinated by the police headquarters in Skopje and Madrid, where a North Macedonian police officer was also deployed.

The IPA/2017 Countering Serious Crime in the Western Balkans Project supported the North Macedonian police officer in the Madrid operation as part of its effort to support international investigations aimed at fighting serious and organised crime. More about the operation in Macedonian you can find on the web site of the Ministry of Interior here.