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September 5-6, 2003
Mr. James Pardew
Ambassador of the United States to Bulgaria

I want to congratulate Boyko Noev and the Center for the Study of Democracy for hosting this conference and for including the topic of organized crime and corruption as a threat to security on the agenda.

In this age of international commerce, mass internet, intercontinental travel and information at the speed of light, organized crime and corruption are serious threats to our national and collective security and it's a very proper topic for this forum.

The new democracies of Eastern Europe are particularly vulnerable to these threats. Unfortunately, the instability in the Balkans during the break-up of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s made the region especially susceptible to the influence of organized crime and corruption, partly because of economic difficulties and partly because the institutions were just developing the great transition that is taking place.

The situation became so severe in Serbia that organized crime was so confident and so powerful that they believed that they could successfully assassinate the Prime Minister of the country. And it required extraordinary efforts on the part of the government of Serbia to respond to this threat to the nation.

But organized crime is more than a Balkan problem. It affects us all. Every country has problems with organized crime, including the United States and it is particularly difficult in the United States in the area of the narcotics.

So, organized crime and corruption threaten democracy everywhere.

It's not when we look at the issue. It's not a question of who has a problem and who doesn't. Everyone does! The question is whether the issue is recognized as a national and international problem, what's being done about it and what is the trend - is the level of organized crime and corruption going up or going down. United States works very hard on organized crime and corruption to reduce its impact, but it's a constant struggle. We care especially about organized crime and corruption in new democracies, because the people in these countries saw hope and a promising future through democracy and real economic development. They aspired to our values and we want them to succeed. Unfortunately, oftentimes many of these countries are vulnerable to the negative influences of organized crime and corruption because of economic difficulties, and rule of law weaknesses in new democracies.

As to membership in NATO, it requires more than military capabilities. It also reflects the shared values and the commitment of the members to democracy and rule of law, because the underpinning of the very foundation of all successful democracies is the rule of law. And organized crime and corruption are completely incompatible with rule of law in a democratic society. Therefore, the threats of organized crime and corruption are not just to the nation, but they, in fact, are threats to the very values and undermine the North-Atlantic Treaty Organization which we hope will be extremely successful with its new membership. Organized crime and corruption is international by nature. Few crime groups, including home-grown ones, are purely domestic. Money laundering, weapons, smuggling and other types of smuggling, counterfeiting currency, trafficking in drugs and people, passport and visa fraud, are big-money cross-border activities which undermine international security, as well as local and national governments. Organized crime does not care where the money comes from, or where the weapons come from, and they don't care where they go. Organized crime is a natural partner to those groups that are interested in engaging in acts of terrorism and they constitute a direct threat to the security of our citizens and our institutions.

Finally, organized crime and corruption are practical political issues in every country. In my experience, people in democratic societies expect rule of law to prevail and they expect governments to deal with organized crime and corruption. More than one government in this region has been swept from power for failing to meet public expectations, regarding organized crime and corruption. Why? Because the attentive public understands that organized crime and corruption derange resources from needed programs, it blocks economic development, it creates unfair and dangerous circumstances for their lives and is corrupting to their children and their society in general.

The problem of organized crime cannot be washed away. The idea that these people and these groups are just new entrepreneurs, or that they are just passing through some sort of natural process that would somehow make them acceptable legal businesses in the future is a false notion. Such explanations are both naive and dangerous.

As we found in the United States, there is no simple answer to these problems. Success requires constant vigilance, requires that the government give proud in being aggressive and in pursuing anti-organized crime programs, requires that the country has effective laws, accountability in government, and transparency in financial matters, requires that all countries have law enforcement and legal system which works and that the countries engage and cooperate fully in international programs to attack organized crime and corruption.

We see success against organized crime and corruption in every country represented in this region and represented in this room as in the interest of the United States. Because your success helps us fight this same issues in my country. It makes you a strong ally and it improves the security in all of our nations.

Thank you!
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