A proposed Balkan police force would focus on organised crime networks who are trying to outmanoeuvre national police forces.
By Klaudija Lutovska for Southeast European Times in Bitola -- 04/10/13
A joint Balkan police force would act against organised crime and corruption, but may also be used against terrorist groups. [AFP]
Many security experts are welcoming a proposal to form a joint Balkan police force to more effectively fight organised crime, corruption and forced migration, but there are questions about how the force would be organised and operate.
The initiative was proposed by Montenegro Deputy Prime Minister Igor Luksic, is supported by the European Union and was discussed on the sidelines at the UN General Assembly meeting last month. Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Kosovo would comprise the new police force.
Security experts said the effort is needed because criminals are increasingly organised in international criminal networks with capabilities to outmanoeuvre national police forces.
The collaborative effort is seen as a great step forward in addressing those criminal capabilities and should be energetically accepted, said Mirsad Abazovic, professor at the Security Faculty in Sarajevo.
"For so far, co-operation is more on a 'volunteer' basis and is more of a tactic used by governments. A systematic and well thought-out concept is needed to achieve results," Abazovic told SETimes.
Police in the region need to embrace it also to be able to deal with the increasing risks of radical fundamentalist and terrorist groups attacking Europe, said Ivan Babanovski of the Macedonia State Security Agency.
"It is important to start the initiative even without agreeing on all issues," Babanovski told SETimes.
The joint force, which would be known as BALPOL, would enable closer police ties that are needed to jointly manage crime prevention activities, in addition to information and knowledge exchanges, according to Dragan Zebeljan, spokesperson for the Serbia Police Union.
"The idea should be accepted because police must not fall behind the criminal structures," Zebeljan told SETimes.
Vladimir Bozovic, state secretary of Serbia internal affairs ministry, said that BALPOL would strengthen Balkan security in an environment where criminals co-operate and use highly sophisticated methods and technology.
"Cross-border crime means evidence in one country, criminal acts done in another, and criminals remaining in a third," Bozovic told SETimes.
Bozovic said there must be a legal framework to allow police co-operation, which is necessary for criminal prosecution in a region that exchanges 30,000 pieces of information and legal agreements annually.
But other experts point to the limitations of the BALPOL initiative.
"Progress has already been achieved in co-operation and integrating the Balkans. But the problem is the very high level of corruption as well as the mistrust among the Balkan countries," Zoran Dragisic, professor at the Security faculty in Belgrade told SETimes.
The initiative aims to address existing gaps that prevent police from going after criminals despite existing agreements such as on extradition, said Vladimir Pivovarov, professor at the Security Faculty in Skopje.
"But the functioning of BALPOL is questionable in that it is not clear whether constitutions or other state laws will have to be changed; where will the data archives be located and how will they be protected," Pivovarov told SETimes.
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