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Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement in Border Districts
Further to Bulgaria’s accession to the European Union, almost half of the country’s frontiers (the ones with Turkey, Macedonia and the Black Sea) have become external borders of the EU. Hence, border crossing related criminal offences and violations, no longer represent a problem of Bulgarian national security alone: they have turned into a problem of EU security. The cross-border significance of these issues will further increase in view of the forthcoming accession of Bulgaria to the Schengen area.

The general problems and specificities inherent in the detection, investigation into, and prosecution of cross-border crimes are analyzed by the Center for the Study of Democracy in its report Reinforcing Criminal Justice in Border Districts. According to the report, which reviews the criminality along the borders with Turkey and Macedonia as well as the south Black Sea border, illegal migration is the most widespread cross-border offence (78.2%), followed by smuggling of goods and narcotics (25.4%). As regards illegal migration the prevailing number of convictions concern illegal border crossings (96.5%) while much more dangerous criminal offences often related to organized crime such as smuggling of persons and trafficking in human beings are punished more rarely (3.5%). Many individuals, arrested for illegally attempting to cross the border, remain unpunished. On the Bulgaria-Turkish border, for instance, almost 75% of the persons arrested while trying to illegally enter or leave the country avoided criminal liability.

Smuggling of goods is usually punished as an administrative violation (99.2% of all cases in 2006) and not as a criminal offence. This creates opportunities for evasion of criminal prosecution and for corruption as long as the administrative penal procedure is much more favorable for the offender (e.g. because of the possibility for the offender to reach an agreement and pay 25% of the value of the smuggled goods instead of having them forfeited). Furthermore, the acts drawn up by the customs authorities are often appealed against, the courts repeal them, and many violations remain unpunished.

The persons sentenced for smuggling of narcotics and trafficking in human beings are usually the direct perpetrators of the acts, while the organizers and managers of the criminal operations usually remain undetected.

For overcoming the existing shortcomings in the detection, investigation into and punishment of cross-border criminality the Center for the Study of Democracy offers a set of recommendations including proposals for legislative changes and organizational, methodological and technical measures.

For more information:

Report: Reinforcing Criminal Justice in Border Districts
Round table: Reinforcing Criminal Justice in Border Districts, November 13, 2007
Presentation of the report Reinforcing Criminal Justice in Border Districts in Burgas, November 9, 2007
Presentation of the report Reinforcing Criminal Justice in Border Districts in Kyustendil, October 18, 2007
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