As the chair of the Organisation of the Black Sea Economic Co-operation, Turkey has placed a priority on combating transnational crime in the region.
By J. Paul Barker for Southeast European Times in Istanbul -- 27/09/12
Turkish President Abdullah Gul (left) and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (right) attend the 20th Anniversary Summit of the Organisation of Black Sea Economic Co-operation in Istanbul on June 26th. [Reuters]
The Black Sea region stands at the intersection of multiple transnational security challenges making regional co-operation necessary to combat criminal networks. Transnational organised crime is present in every country in the region, leaving none immune to the detrimental effects it has on the economic development and integration of the region.
On July 1st, Turkey assumed the role of chairman of the Organisation of the Black Sea Economic Co-operation for a six-month term led by Deputy Foreign Minister Naci Koru.
Under the theme, "From regional co-operation to a zone of prosperity," one goal of the Turkish chairmanship is combating organised crime, illegal trafficking of drugs and weapons, terrorism, corruption and money laundering.
Combating these transnational threats requires not just a national commitment but also the co-operation of other states.
Antonia Maria Costa, executive director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, highlighted that "since crime has gone global purely national responses are inadequate."
To address these issues, there is a need for regional and international responses, Costa said in a UN report on globalised crime.
Koru said that organised crime and trafficking in the Black Sea region "have become major sources of concern."
"Due to the transnational nature of issues such as terrorism, illegal migration, and trafficking in human-beings, drugs and weapons," Koru said that there is a need for greater co-operation between states.
The strategic location of the organisation's countries between Europe and Asia puts them at the centre of many of transnational crimes
According to the UN, 80 percent of heroin trafficked to Europe comes from Afghanistan through Iran and Turkey where it enters the Balkan route.
Tunc Aybak, senior lecturer in international politics at Middlesex University in the UK, told SETimes that Turkey's geographic position makes it not only a transit country but, since the end of the Cold War, also "a receiving country for trafficked migrants, particularly in sex trafficking and human smuggling."
"As these new human security issues are transnational in nature going beyond the national borders, the [organisation] potentially provides a good platform for co-operation to manage these challenges," Aybak told SETimes.
The group made a contribution to combat human trafficking with its 2008 Regional Action Plan for Strengthening the Criminal Justice Response to Trafficking in Persons. While this provides a beneficial framework, Aybak said it remains "a rhetorical policy document as it requires full co-operation and the implementation by the governments and law enforcement and border control agencies."
One step Turkey will take to facilitate co-operation and commitment to combat organised crime will be to host a meeting of ministers of the interior to further develop common approaches and methods to fight crime. There are also additional meetings scheduled between the organisation's liaison officers and the Working Group on Combating Crime.
Combating organised and cross-border crime is connected to other priority areas that aim to eliminate obstacles to economic stability and prosperity.
Other priorities of the Turkish chairmanship include developing the transportation sector and the Black Sea Ring Highway and Motorways of the Sea projects. A trade centre will also be established in Bursa to further the role of the private sector in increasing inter-regional trade. Turkey also aims to promote more effective visa and tariff procedures for member countries to facilitate trade.
The organisation was established in 1992 to promote peace, stability, dialogue and prosperity in the Black Sea region, by means of economic co-operation. Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Ukraine and Turkey are members.