Regional police cooperation in the changed Balkans (Abstract)

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Autor: Saša Đorđević, Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (www.bezbednost.org) Email: sasa.djordjevic@bezbednost.org

Editors note: This paper was presented at the 23. Conference “Danube – River of Cooperation”, held on September 24th 2012

The eleventh priority area in the Danube Strategy which is formulated in January 2012 is the promotion of the security and the fight against cross-border organized crime. The specific tasks for the priority implementation are:

  1. improve the exchange of information between law enforcement authorities;
  2. the strengthening of cooperation between law enforcement agencies,
  3. promotion of the rule of law. Essentially, the Danube strategy envisages strengthening police cooperation to combat transnational organized crime.

 

Police cooperation is the communication of two or more entities to exchange information, to investigate and arrest suspects. In the Balkans, as a part of the Danube region, police cooperation is necessary and required. Enhanced intensity of the regional police relations is essential in order to combat security threats, but also for the construction a stable region. Cooperation is essential for combating security challenges, risks and threats, but also necessary to meet the conditions of maintaining good neighbouring relations that the EU requires.

The Balkans is one of the major importers of “soft” security threats within the EU, as well as the well-known route used by organized criminal groups for various criminal activities. Balkan route is the main route for smuggling heroin into which are the most used waterways and land routes. It is estimated that about 85 tons of heroin every year smuggle through the Balkans. Heroin is produced in Afghanistan, subsequently is moved to the Islamic Republic of Iran and then to Turkey to finally reach the European continent. From Istanbul, heroin is smuggled to Bulgaria. From Bulgaria heroin either goes through Romania or is sent to the Balkans: from these locations it is then directed to the final consumers in the EU. A minor quantity of heroin reaches the Balkans also through Greece. Serbia is an important transit country for heroin and for other narcotics too.

Heroin seems not to be only the opiate trade in the Balkans. There is clear evidence that cocaine “travelling” through the Balkan countries in recent years. It seems that members of the Balkan organized groups operating in Latin America are trying to take the cocaine trade and its distribution in Europe by supplying the opiate of the Nigerian criminal groups are active in Brazil.

In the future regional security in the Balkan countries will depend on mutual cooperation between states and governments in fighting organized crime. Especially, this notion is relevant in situations where organized crime groups can act more efficiently, without existence of state borders and burden from the past. In this way, they affect peace, stability and security of the region. On the other hand, states need to try to find efficient mechanism to cooperate in justice and home affairs. If this cooperation is more efficacious, the states of the region are going to be even closer to full membership to the European Union and to real consolidate democracy.

Regional police cooperation gains on quality with establishment of more efficient bilateral police relations. Croatia and Serbia as engines of regional police cooperation, but other countries in the region as well, will face similar circumstances when developing information exchange police networks with the EU law enforcement bodies. It is therefore necessary to institutionalize and deepen the existing police cooperation in the near future. It is important not just for the purpose of suppression of cross–border organized crime, but also for exchange of experience in the area of crime prevention, meeting the conditions for full–fledged EU membership or accession to, and afterwards implementing the Schengen agreement. Police cooperation between Croatia and Serbia represents a successful model that both countries can (and should) use for strengthening police cooperation on a regional level. Thus, they contribute to fulfilling the special EU condition for the Western Balkans — developing and sustaining good neighbourly relations.

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