III. Regional Program--Southern European Cooperative Initiative (SECI)

U.S. Government Assistance to Eastern Europe under the Support for East European Democracy (SEED) Act
Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
January 2004
Report

REGIONAL RULE OF LAW PROGRAMS UNDER THE SOUTHEAST EUROPEAN COOPERATIVE INITIATIVE (SECI)

There are two major SEED-funded projects that pursue a regional, cooperative approach to rule of law and border reform in SEE -- the Regional Center to Combat Trans-border Crime, located in Bucharest, Romania, and the Trade and Transport Facilitation in Southeast Europe (TTFSE) program. Both were originally developed under the umbrella of SECI, the Southeast European Cooperative Initiative that was launched with U.S. support in December 1996 to facilitate regional peace and stability through cooperative activities among the countries of Southeastern Europe (SEE) and to lay the foundation for their integration into the rest of Europe. SECI has provided a mechanism for these countries -- Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Macedonia, Moldova, Romania, Slovenia, Turkey and, most recently, Serbia and Montenegro -- to cooperate on a regional basis to solve trans-national problems

The priority focus of the Regional Anti-Crime Center in Bucharest is fighting cross-border crime, while the TTFSE program, which is a cooperative program implemented through the World Bank, supports infrastructure development, customs reform, and trade facilitation in SEE. In FY 2003, these two programs received an allocation of $5.875 million from the SEED regional and bilateral budgets. Of that, $2.945 million was drawn from the SEED country budgets of six states (Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, and Montenegro and Serbia) and the SEED regional budget and was devoted to technical assistance in support of the SECI/World Bank program in the customs reform and trade facilitation areas in SEE. An additional $600,000 from the SEED Regional budget was transferred to the Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, to administer a multi-year grant for Serbia and Montenegro for the training and trade facilitation component of the TTFSE project. The Vienna-based Coordinator for both SECI and Stability Pact, who receives administrative support from the OSCE, received $110,000 in SEED funds for administrative and travel expenses.

REGIONAL ANTI-CRIME PROGRAMS

Under regional programs related to the SECI initiative, $1.835 million in FY 2003 SEED funds was devoted to activities fighting cross-border crime in SEE.

Regional Center for Combating Trans-border Crime (SECI Center): Twelve SECI states are parties to an agreement to share information to combat trans-border crime, under which they established the Regional Center for Combating Transborder Crime in Bucharest, Romania, also known as the SECI Center.

The SECI Center functions as a regional focal point for the communication and transmission of "real time" law enforcement information on cross-border crime. It is staffed by 20 liaison officers (police and customs officers) from 12 states in SEE, working closely with law enforcement experts from most of the countries of Western Europe, Russia, Poland, Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, the U.S., and others. Liaison officers exchange law enforcement information related to trans-border crime in the region, and also lead and coordinate operational task forces in the field. The Center's four primary task forces target narcotics, commercial fraud, trafficking in persons, and terrorism (which consists of financial crime, small arms trafficking, and WMD), and include, inter alia, experts from international organizations, supporting states, and the region. In 2003, the task forces organized numerous regional operations involving cooperation and coordination among the law enforcement agencies of the member countries. Recent operations have targeted trafficking in persons, narcotics smuggling, and stolen cars. "Operation Mirage," for example, targeted trafficking in persons and sought to identify and repatriate trafficked women and identify and investigate criminal groups involved in trafficking. The Operation involved 12 states and, over a two-week period in September 2003, checked over 11,000 persons throughout the region, identifying 696 victims of trafficking and 831 traffickers. Criminal procedures were brought in 499 cases and 194 arrests were made.

For 2003-2004, FY 2003 SEED funds totaling $435,000 are being transferred to the SECI Center to support the anti-crime activities of the following task forces:

  • $100,000 to support the task force on trafficking in human beings, to include additional iterations of Operation Mirage;
  • $150,000 to support the task force on narcotics and its operational activities; and
  • $185,000 for the task force on combating terrorism and financial crime.
An additional $125,000 was also budgeted to support the administrative, communications, and public affairs activities of the Center.

In FY 2003, $600,000 in FY 2003 SEED funds was used to fund the assignment of an expert to the Center from the Department of Justice, Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training (DOJ/OPDAT). The DOJ expert will provide guidance on several matters related to assisting the Center in cementing its legal protocols, developing rules of information exchange such as Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties, advising on the implementation of a regional prosecutorial working group, as well a witness/victim protection program. U.S. Law Enforcement agencies also dedicated $300,000 to technical assistance to the Center in FY 2003-04.

Combating Global Terrorism

On September 14, 2001, the Joint Coordinating Committee (JCC) of the Bucharest Regional Anti-Crime Center unanimously adopted the Bucharest Declaration on the Suppression of Terrorism. The Declaration is meant to encourage the exchange of information among SECI participating states on criminal organizations that are closely tied to terrorism, including information on the financial resources and support of these groups. The Government of Turkey is serving as the project coordinator on this matter and has consolidated several task forces (Small Arms, WMD, and Financial Crime) under its umbrella. The task force is planning an operation for 2004 to target suspicious transactions.

Judicial and Prosecutorial Cooperation

FY 2003 SEED funds totaling $375,000 were devoted to initiating two regional working groups to further advance U.S. interests in SEE in the rule-of-law area. A total of $125,000 went to support the organization of the South East European Prosecutors' Advisory Group (SEEPAG), which brings together prosecutors from the SECI states to facilitate the prosecution of criminals in trans-border cases involving multiple states. The U.S. dedicated $250,000 to the creation of a Model Law Initiative, to be led by Slovenia, that will create a forum for the development of model laws with sufficiently defined elements and penalties to enhance the prosecution of sophisticated transnational crimes -- such as drug smuggling, human trafficking and money laundering -- in SEE. While the states of the region often have well-developed penal codes addressing domestic crimes, laws dealing with offenses associated with organized crime and other forms of trans-national crime mostly are either underdeveloped or nonexistent.

TRADE AND TRANSPORT FACILITATION IN SOUTHEAST EUROPE PROGRAM (TTFSE)

This program addresses the need to achieve quicker, cheaper cross-border transit of goods in the region, while also fighting smuggling and corruption at border stations. Long delays in transiting international borders are considered a serious obstacle to trade and economic development. The five key elements of this assistance effort promoting comprehensive institutional reforms are: 1) physical infrastructure improvement; 2) trade facilitation training and related activities; 3) customs information management systems; 4) customs training; and 5) anti-corruption programs.

The Trade and Transport Facilitation in Southeast Europe (TTFSE) project has been a multi-year, joint effort of the World Bank, the U.S., and European counterparts. The U.S. and select European governments are providing technical assistance to participating countries to reform their customs services and facilitate trade in the region. U.S. funds are leveraged against about $80 million in World Bank loans to the region for the physical improvement of border crossing facilities in the six participating countries.

The U.S. invested $3.545 million of FY 2003 SEED funds in TTFSE. Of that amount, the Department of Homeland Security's Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has received $2.945 million to provide technical assistance to customs reform projects in Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Romania, in support of the World Bank project. Border advisory teams in Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, and Romania are working with host border services, customs, police, and national security agencies to address requirements of the TTFSE project. Work being performed includes developing workload, productivity, and performance indicators; creating performance monitoring systems; establishing Port Pilot sites and testing new procedures; enhancing cooperation among border control agencies; training prosecutors and magistrates in customs laws and procedures; and assistance to develop legal and regulatory amendments to customs codes, where needed.

For TTFSE to be effective, those directly engaged in cross-border transit activities must know the relevant laws, regulations, and practices. The Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs is implementing a trade facilitation component of the project, led by a consortium of three regional educational institutions (Bulgarian, Greek, and Turkish) and consisting of a joint training program for public and private sector personnel from throughout SEE. SEED funds totaling $600,000 were allocated for this project in 2003, to provide for the participation of Serbia and Montenegro in the multi-year program.