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September 5-6, 2003
Dr. Erhard Busek
Special Coordinator of the Stability Pact for Southeast Europe

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen. It is an honour and a pleasure to address this distinct audience on this very important topic.

When I was asked to talk about risks to SEE integration into Euro-Atlantic structures, I happily accepted to do so. It gives me the opportunity to communicate to you a few messages that I have repeated and underlined on various occasions and for quite a while, simply because I feel they can not be stated too often!

First of all, this conference contributes to the ultimate understanding for everybody involved in the Balkans reconstruction and integration process, that organised crime and corruption are very severe threats. For too long, it was believed that primarily ethnic or political tensions needed to be overcome.

And unfortunately some international actors replayed some of the 19th century and pre-World War I scenarios in the beginning of the 90s, by granting political and logistical support for one or the other side in the break-up of former Yugoslavia. It was really only after the Sarajevo Summit (and the formal inauguration of the Stability Pact), that the international community was more coordinated.

Let me now address the topics in accordance with the panel's concept: Genesis, regional and wider European implications of organised crime, and the need for a joint responsibility and strategy.


Today, we know that criminals from (former) Yugoslavia were already involved in illicit activities during tensions in the 70s and early 80s. Political circles from the capitals of the former republics instrumentalised them for their aims.

Later, criminals were even more involved into the political moves. Let me just remind you of characters like Arkan. The military contribution during the land campaigns of some of these criminals was paid for. The price was high, not only in terms of money but also loss of human life and more far-reaching the embedding of criminal activities in the political process. Not only that these people were allowed to commit several atrocities, which led to personal enrichment during campaigns; once influential enough, they insisted on power sharing and thus infiltrated highest governmental levels.

In the early 90s, similar developments were observed in other parts of ex-Yugoslavia. Some cases with links to Croatia, Kosovo or Macedonia made international headlines. Often, such activities were tolerated in the (false) name of "protecting the fatherland".

It took a decade to understand that organised criminal groups are acting behind the scenes. They are covered with nationalistic rhetoric, but cooperate well with each other. Dirty money gained from women trafficking or weapons and drug trafficking does obviously not know national, religious or ethnic affiliation, nor boundaries!

Undermining the stability in SEE

Secondly, let me point out the different impact for the region. It is clear, that not all countries suffered from the same magnitude of the problem.

Yes, organised criminal groups succeeded in capturing state structures. However, I do not wish to speak about entire state capture here, since I see too many promising signs that states do recover. Various administrative and judicial bodies do still or are starting to function well in SEE. There is always room for improvements of course.

Yes, organised crime played a vicious role during the privatisation process and it is generally involved in unlawful redistribution of national wealth. It contributed to the reform freeze in some countries because its interest is to keep an inefficient public sector. I do not want to elaborate more on the GDP and tax losses for some of your countries. Although reliable data in this context are by the nature of things hard to come by, alleged figures of up to 40% of lost revenues due to corruption and crime are more than alarming signals.

Thus, organised crime played its part to create a negative image and to hamper foreign investment (which by the way and as we all know shies away from an insecure environment).

On top of this, the "drop out" of trafficking in human beings and drugs started to affect the SEE societies. Police officers admitted in open discussions with my experts from the Initiative against Organised Crime (SPOC) that the number of local drug addicts is rising. Female (kidnapped) victims for the sex industry can also be found in almost all countries of the Balkans.

Thirdly, allow me to elaborate on the threats of organised crime for Europe and its transatlantic partners.

Europe was a destination of drugs, luxury goods or smuggled illegal migrants before the Balkan wars. Today, organised criminals from SEE took over the role of former traffickers, which ensured the transit from Central Asia to Europe. However, the current dealers of illicit goods seem to enjoy a more efficient control and better coordinated network throughout Europe.

Let me also point out that gangs from SEE (linked to or alleged to have links to Albania, Macedonia and Kosovo) managed to establish themselves at the American East coast. Some are even reported to do illegal business in Miami, a place where we would expect organised criminal groups from Latin America to be in the lead.

I could elaborate more; instead, I would prefer to turn to possible counteraction. Let me start with the Stability Pact's core objective to fight organised crime.

Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe Initiative against Organised Crime (SPOC)

SPOC facilitates dialogue with international and regional representatives of the legal, scientific and law enforcement communities covering preventive and repressive aspects of the combat against organised crime issues. A department head of the Austrian Criminal Service currently chairs the SPOC Board. A Macedonian customs officer currently leads the SPOC Secretariat, which is located in the premises of the Transborder Crime Fighting Centre in Bucharest. Brussels-based Experts of SCSP Working Table III's Sub-Table for Justice and Home Affairs provide legal expertise, and maintain contacts with the donor community.

SPOC undertakes awareness raising efforts with the goal to create an understanding for the need to fight organised crime in SEE as a precondition for a civil society based on the rule of law, as a requirement to attract investment and as a prerequisite for further EU rapprochement. Also, SPOC urges for legislative reforms, which may signal to potential criminals that they will face harsh sentences for instance when caught smuggling human beings.

Setting up well trained specialised units of law enforcement authorities and elements of the judiciary may have a preventive effect, but would serve as well as repressive instruments to combat organised criminal activity. We can expect that the Austrian-Swiss-Norwegian funded OCTN (Organised Crime Training Network) will play an important role in future education and networking of middle management SEE police officers in charge of combating organised crime.

In conjunction with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), SPOC supports the implementation of the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime (Palermo TOC) in SEE. As a first step, it is intended to disseminate a Practitioner's Handbook on the TOC, which is meant to teach investigators about group criminalisation, mutual judicial assistance indictments, and the so-called Falcone checklist.

Another SPOC priority is the establishment of a sound witness protection in SEE. This requires reforms in national legislation, the identification of local witness protection authorities, and respective training.

In order to prepare a smooth exchange of data regarding organised crime groups between EU member states, Europol, SEE states and the (SECI) Crime Fighting Centre in Bucharest, SPOC promotes the implementation of data protection legislation in the region. This would lead to the creation of independent and well-educated data protection officials.

SPOC promotes CARDS projects relevant for the combat against organised crime. It shares with interested eligible EU member states and international organisation projects, and distributes available information on open tenders.

SPOC is assisting the Italian EU Presidency in its preparation of a Ministerial JHA Troika meeting (London and Thessaloniki follow up). This event is scheduled for November 28th and will take place in Brussels. In total, over 60 ministers from the EU and SEE are expected to attend the meeting. It will discuss London and Thessaloniki follow-up activities.

Shared responsibility

I have just enumerated a number of important players, the European Council, the European Commission, the United Nations and I would like to add the OSCE due to its successful field engagement in SEE and the Council of Europe as a standard setting organisation.

This being said, I am convinced that the EU, the OSCE, the CoE and the UNO are a mighty force to fight organised crime, especially by maximising synergies and coordinating their efforts.

The combat against organised crime is too important an issue, that it could be hindered by turf battles. We need to merge our expertise, the efforts of our staff and our financial resources. Each organisation has valuable parts to offer. For instance: one actor might have valuable teaching material, the next provides field personnel and the third has sufficient financial resources. Why not complementing each other to allow joint capacity building for SEE?

I am convinced, that we have built much capacity in SEE. However, as international and organized crime always seem to be better organized than the security forces fighting them, we need to continue in our efforts in a coordinated way. Criminals have tougher times ahead of in SEE than in the past!
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