The geographic position of the Western Balkans (WB) is suitable for the expansion of criminal networks. Despite the fact that regional leaders are aware of the changing criminal environment in Europe, there are still significant gaps in regional cooperation in this field. Integrated management of the area of internal security represents a framework for policy coordination, designed to encourage cross-border cooperation in the region and enable the countries of the WB to resist the challenges of internal security in a long-term and self-sustaining perspective. Suppressing, eradicating, or at least bringing trans-national organised crime under control1 is in the interest of all the countries of the WB. As opposed to organised crime of the past, whose primary motive was profit, today’s criminals have other aspirations. Financial power and positions in the political, economic and local sectors are used for extra-institutional, unlawful, unethical and other influences on the state, i.e. for taking positions in society that cannot be obtained through participation in regular democratic processes. The new negative energy of organised crime threatens the security of many countries, including the international community.2 In order to be successful in the fight against organised crime, it is very important to carry out a comprehensive analysis of all segments and factors that are directly related to this negative social phenomenon. Organised crime has become so normal in the WB that it is no longer possible to meaningfully separate it from politics, business and many other aspects of everyday life. The infamous ‘Balkan Route’, which remains the main route for human trafficking and drug smuggling to Europe, leaves devastating consequences for the communities through/along which it passes. More than 20 years after the adoption of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime, the impression is that the problem of fighting this phenomenon in the WB is as intractable as it used to be.3 Every organised social community must determine its priority tasks, main directions, methods of action, and the appropriate organisation of the police and judiciary to fight organised crime. This can be achieved by establishing adequate cooperation between the police, the courts and the authorities responsible for controlling the crossing of the state borders. In the post-Dayton period, or as some authors call it, the post-conflict period, the idea of the need to establish regional initiatives and organisations, with the aim of pacifying the Balkan region and getting it closer to Euro-Atlantic integration, is once again being actualised by the member states of the European Union (EU) and the United States of America. The initiatives described below stand out in terms of importance.
Organised crime is progressively moving over national borders and is becoming a regional and international problem. Four countries of the WB region (Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Albania) have started the negotiation process for accession to the EU. Aligning the regulation, including the policies regarding fighting organised crime, and gradually integrating into the EU will be the main priority of these four countries in the upcoming years.
In the first part of the analysis, the authors will discuss the cooperation of WB countries at the level of police cooperation, under the framework of INTERPOL, EUROPOL, the Schengen Agreement or other international bilateral and multilateral agreements. In the second part, the analysis goes further into cooperation in the field of prosecution.
Opinions expressed in the publication are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the Netherlands Embassy in Belgrade, the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Belgrade, the Balkan Trust for Democracy, the German Marshall Fund of the United States, or its partners.