Crime in the Western Balkans: cross-border policing and judiciary work

Investigations carried out by cross-border teams, good cooperation and an uncomplicated exchange of information are making it easier to fight organised crime.

The investigation followed a trail from Serbia to North Macedonia before breaking up a drug cartel. The team, made up of representatives from both countries and European Union (EU) advisors, arrested 13 suspects. 240 kg of amphetamines were seized, and two drug labs were uncovered. Five individuals were convicted in a court of law. The mastermind behind it all was a Serbian doctor.

This victory over the drug cartel was the result of successful cooperation. Since 2010, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH has been working on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), with financial assistance from the EU, to support investigations into organised cross-border crime in the Western Balkans. What marks this out is that state prosecutors and police officials from EU member states advise the partner institutions in the countries on their ongoing work. As was the case with the drug cartel, this means that joint cross-border investigation teams can be set up with clear structures and a clear allocation of roles.

The non-bureaucratic transfer of knowledge and data makes it easier to work together and exchange evidence. In cooperation with the Italian Ministry of the Interior and the Netherlands Center for International Legal Cooperation (CILC), GIZ advises on better networking between the police and state prosecutors in countries in the Balkans and the EU. This was exemplified in the case involving the Serbian doctor.

The case was recently presented to the Paris Peace Forum as an example of successful cooperation in the Western Balkans. This international platform brings together top representatives from politics and the private sector to discuss and promote initiatives designed to build peace and prevent conflict. GIZ took part as a partner with a host of approaches. The case of the Serbian doctor made it across the French border as one of a total of 116 governance projects presented at the Forum. And this time, the border crossing was completely legal.

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