Regional security has improved as Romania and Moldova have worked together to reduce smuggling, officials say.
By Paul Ciocoiu for Southeast European Times in Bucharest -- 31/01/14
A Romanian police officer monitors the Sculeni border crossing point from Romania to Moldova. [AFP]
Modern equipment and intensified expertise exchanges between Romania and Moldova border police have prevented dozens of smuggling attempts and strengthened security across the EU external borders, officials in Bucharest and Chisinau told SETimes.
"Without any doubt, the reform of the border police, as well as the endowment with modern technique and equipment, have had a positive impact on ensuring security at the state border, registering successes in fighting smuggling on the Romanian-Moldova border, both on the green line and at the checkpoints," Moldova's Interior Minister Dorin Recean told SETimes.
The Romania-Moldova border comprises one-third of the 2,070 kilometres of EU border protected by Romania.
"As part of the EU external frontier, the Romanian-Moldovan border receives a special interest from the European organisations and, on this level, many drills and operations are organised in order to both generate an effective exchange of experience among the European border authorities and apply joint measures to prevent and fight trans-border crime," Romania's border police said in a statement issued to SETimes.
A series of agreements between the two countries regulates the exchange of operative information, joint border supervision through co-ordinated patrols, joint action plans and working meetings, investigations and assessments of the situation on the common border.
Co-operation areas include the fight against smuggling, especially cigarettes, human trafficking, illegal immigration, stolen vehicle trafficking, and false travel and identification documents, the statement said.
Over the first three quarters of 2013, Romanian border police discovered more than 1 million smuggled packs of cigarettes. On the other side of the border, Moldovan police found more than 200,000 packs of smuggled cigarettes in September alone.
In 2013, Moldova's border police discovered 38 cases of smuggling, up from 17 in 2012 and 13 in 2011, along the green border, the sector primarily used by smugglers. At the checkpoints, though, the number of smuggling cases decreased to 135 in 2013 from 280 in 2012. That suggests smugglers turned their attention to the green border.
Recean said smuggling has been significantly discouraged after special operations were deployed to conduct rigorous checks.
"Following special joint investigations with our colleagues in Romania, thanks to the modern equipment and a performing system of risk analysis, we have noticed a considerable increase of the discovery and investigation rate of smuggling cases along the green border," Recean said.
According to Romania's border police, collaboration with their Moldovan counterparts has increased based on the annual development plans between the two institutions. The Joint Contact Centre in Galati, southeast Romania, is the primary platform for this consolidated relationship, hosting border and customs agents from the two countries.
Last June, the heads of the two countries' border police met and discussed further co-operation, as well as the latest tendencies in the border crimes to be jointly tackled. In October 2011, Romania donated land and fluvial patrolling equipment to the Moldovan border police.
What are the most effective measures the border police should take to reduce smuggling in the region? Share your thoughts in comments.