Police say they see the importance of co-operating with agencies in the region to reduce the flow of drugs along the "Balkan route."
By Mladen Dragojlovic for Southeast European Times in Banja Luka -- 30/08/13
Police say they are committed to stopping the flow of drugs into Europe from Turkey and South America. [AFP]
In international police circles, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) is recognised as one of most important links in the nacorics smuggling chain that leads from Afghanistan and Turkey to the European Union.
Police and border control agencies are in constant awareness that smugglers are very active and narcotics is often on the road. Heroin, cocaine and other drugs are transported in small or often bigger packages from their place of production to the EU.
"We can say that a large number of BiH citizens are involved in criminal acts related to drug abuse on BiH territory and in EU countries," Kristina Jozic, spokeswoman for the BiH Agency for Investigation and Protection Agency, told SETimes. "Through comparisons of this information it is possible to say that the bigger problem is this involvement than the presence of narcotics in the country."
In 2012 BiH seized heroin, cocaine, amphetamines and marijuana valued at more than 750,000 euros, statistics show.
SIPA is co-operating with other police agencies in the country and region to strengthen their efforts against narcotics.
"Speaking about specific types of narcotics, we can say that heroin transport does not pass through BiH because of the bad quality of roads. These transports go through Serbia and proof for that is the fact that biggest seizures were in Serbia and Bulgaria," Jozic said.
Bojan Solaja, director for the Centre for International Relationships and Security in Banja Luka, said that the poor roads in BiH are an advantage for smugglers. He said that, among other reasons, this is one of most important reasons that BiH is key to for the "Balkan route."
"Smugglers adore these roads because there is a small number of police patrols and control is at a low level. Roads, especially highways in Bulgaria and Serbia, are controlled and covered with cameras so they are not good for transport of a large amount of narcotics. That is why they use roads from Afghanistan, Turkey and Bulgaria, to BiH over Kosovo and Montenegro," Solaja said.
He said one of important routes for cocaine from South America goes through the Croatian harbours of Split and Ploce and into BiH.
"The geostrategic position of BiH is such that the drug transport from this country can be in Slovenia or Austria in few hours. From the Bihac region to Slovenian border is less than 100 kilometres," Solaja said.
Vinko Dumancic, director of the BiH border police, agreed that the borders are porous and there are a lot of places suitable for unauthorised border crossing, but his institution is working on identifying and closing them.
"BiH has a total of 1,650 kilometres of borders and it is not easy to control it. For example, few years ago we identified 118 such places on the border with Croatia and closed them all. On the border with Montenegro, we identified 44 places and now we are working to close 22 of them and the rest we will close in the near future," Dumancic told SETimes.
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