Task Force Tobacco discusses the fight against illicit tobacco trade under the COVID-19

On 18-19 November, the EUBAM Annual Task Force Tobacco meeting was held in a video-conference format. The event brought together representatives of law enforcement agencies of the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine, Poland, Romania, EU agencies such as Europol and OLAF, as well as Ukrainian Tobacco Association “Ukrtutun” and the major cigarette producers.

The event provided an excellent opportunity for the participants to share their experience and exchange views on trends, modus operandi, risks, and countermeasures for preventing illicit tobacco trade. It was noted that the COVID-19 pandemic caused a significant decrease in the small-scale cigarette smuggling, though it did not affect the large-scale illicit whites trafficking by transnational organized crime groups. That posed a high pressure on the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine as transit countries, as well as on EU member states as the final destinations. The participants also acknowledged a growing illicit cigarette market in the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, highlighting that increase of excise taxes for cigarettes and presence of organized crime groups make both countries more vulnerable for cigarette smuggling and illegal production for internal consumption.

In this connection, the Task Force Tobacco pointed out the importance of information exchange on risky cigarette consignments, as well as increased investments and use of non-intrusive cargo examination technologies such as X-ray scanners. Those would improve detection of cigarettes and other illicit goods, enhancing the efficiency of border and customs controls. It was furthermore emphasized the need of strengthening institutions, legal enforcement capabilities in addition to introducing the penalization of excisable goods smuggling and deterrent and punitive measures into criminal laws, mandatory for effectively address or minimize those risks.

EUBAM and its Partner Services hold the 2nd Arms Working Group meeting

On 4 November, EUBAM and representatives of law enforcement agencies from Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova, supported by Europol, Frontex and OSCE held, in a video-conference format, the second operational meeting of the Arms Working Group.

The participating agencies discussed the implementation of the 2020 Action Plan and challenges faced during the coronavirus pandemic. The participants also presented proposals for the activities in 2021 and expressed their confidence that the activities planned will considerably boost the international cooperation and heighten their operational capacity in counteracting this phenomenon.

Moreover, the parties shared their experience and information on significant cases of weapons, ammunition, and explosives (WAE) trafficking and presented the most recent trends, modi operandi as well as the best investigation practices.

Practical Exercise for Mastering the Operational Response to Trafficking of Radioactive Materials

On 30 September and 1 October, EUBAM, in cooperation with Ukrainian and Moldovan national nuclear and radiological agencies facilitated the implementation of a practical exercise for mastering operational response by border guard/police and customs officers to effectively tackle trafficking of radioactive materials at the Moldova-Ukraine border. The objective of the exercise was to strengthen the capability of law enforcement to detect and intercept the smuggling of radiological and nuclear materials as being moved across the border

The exercise was held on both sides of the border, namely at Criva and Mamalyha border crossing points, as well as the adjacent border area, with the strict observance of the COVID-19 restrictive measures. During the two-day exercise, EUBAM experts shared their experience on the trafficking involving radioactive materials and assisted the national authorities in enhancing their practical skills and capabilities by developing different scenarios as close to reality as possible. Together, the parties have also verified and improved the information exchange systems as well as the data sharing existing mechanisms for cooperation at the national and international levels.

All the details of the exercise were established during the online preparatory meeting facilitated by EUBAM, on 8 September, with participation of border, customs and nuclear regulatory agencies of both countries.

“Criminal and unauthorized activities involving nuclear and radioactive materials represent a threat to states’ security worldwide. Despite the efforts taken by law enforcement agencies, the likelihood of the illicit trafficking of nuclear and radiological materials remains due to the increased availability of misappropriated radiological sources from different conflict zones and their further trade. Such shipments may present health and safety threats both to the persons involved and to the public.”, stated Slawomir Pichor, Head of the European Union Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine (EUBAM).

EUBAM Advisory Board encourages to continue the good progress achieved in border management

On 16 September 2020, the 34th Advisory Board Meeting of the European Union Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine took place in videoconference format. Representatives of the Foreign Ministries, border, customs and law enforcement agencies of the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, the European Union Delegations to the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, the International Organization for Migration, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and United Nations Development Programme participated in the meeting.

The Advisory Board appreciated the progress achieved by the Mission and its Partner Services in the challenging situation emerged due to COVID-19 outbreak and encouraged the parties to continue working with the same dedication and high professionalism. EUBAM’s and its Partner Services’ sustained contribution to launching an inclusive dialogue between Chisinau and Tiraspol, as well as the support to the establishment of joint control along Moldova-Ukraine state border, together with the efforts in preventing, detecting and investigating cross-border crimes were among the most important achievements highlighted by the Advisory Board.

The European Union Ambassador to the Republic of Moldova, H.E. Peter Michalko welcomed and appreciated the commitment of the Moldovan and Ukrainian partners to the EU Border Assistance Mission, including during the COVID-19 situation and the complications it brought with it. “Over the next period, I hope and I trust that collectively we can mark progress in further rolling out the joint border control concept along the Moldova-Ukraine border, so that citizens on both sides can travel easier from one side to the other. EUBAM’s contribution towards offering and implementing EU expertise and best practices in border management is testimony to the European Union’s lasting partnership with both the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, on the one hand, and a clear expression of its will to further assist in resolving the Transnistrian issue, on the other.”

The European Union Ambassador to Ukraine, H.E. Matti Maasikas emphasized the particular importance of smooth and transparent border management cooperation in the current challenging times: “Joint border crossing points reduce waiting times for people and goods which is important also from an epidemiological point of view. They are effective in fighting cross border crime and smuggling. The EU has finalised the reconstruction of two border crossing points between Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova and provided substantial investment. Now, we encourage the Ukrainian side to also go ahead with agreed renovation works and provision of infrastructure in order to swiftly launch joint border operations, to the benefit of people and trade.”

Mr Gheorghe Leucă, State Secretary within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of the Republic of Moldova appreciated EUBAM’s valuable expertise and assistance offered to the national authorities of both countries over the last ten months in achieving progress under all three pillars. „Despite the emerging difficulties due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Mission continued to advance the work on supporting confidence building measures, implementing integrated border management and combating cross-border crime. We remain convinced that EUBAM represents a substantial tool for border management and risk analysis in line with the interests of the population of both countries, Moldova and Ukraine. Hence, we reconfirm our interest in working further with the Mission aimed at ensuring stability and security in the region.”

Mr. Serhii Saienko, Deputy Director General of the Directorate for the European Union and the NATO of Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stated „We cannot overestimate the Mission’s contribution to the infrastructure development of BCPs to be launched in October this year and increasing the technical equipment level of the Ukrainian-Moldovan borders. We highlight joint actions lead by EUBAM to counter illicit trafficking in arms /CBRN materials within the recently established Working Group and other violations during joint operations and investigations in the border areas.”

Head of EUBAM Mr Slawomir Pichor said: “I would like to express my deep respect and appreciation to all the professionals serving in the Moldovan and Ukrainian border and customs services for their excellent spirit of cooperation and passion demonstrated while carrying out their work during these challenging times, and also to extend my particular gratitude to the Governments of both hosting countries for their trust to continue our joint success story called EUBAM”.

The next meeting of the Advisory Board will be held in January 2021.

 

Working meeting on combating firearms trafficking

On 20 and 21 August, representatives of EUBAM, Frontex, EUROPOL and OSCE together with delegates from the law enforcement agencies from Poland, Romania, Republic of Moldova and Ukraine held a virtual working meeting to debate on the  current state of affairs  in the field of firearms trafficking. 

The meeting provided a great opportunity for information exchange on modi operandi and smuggling channels and it was part of the common efforts undertaken to tackle the threats related to cross-border crime in the region and it contributed to improving the situational picture in illegal firearms trafficking.

The parties also decided to enhance and join all their efforts for preventing and combating cross-border crime, including by planning joint operation activities on tacking firearms trafficking. 

 

Head of EUBAM meets the Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration in Chisinau

On 23 June, the Head of EUBAM, Slawomir Pichor, held a meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration, Cristina Lesnic, at the premises of the Moldovan Government in Chisinau, the capital of the Republic of Moldova.

The Head of EUBAM briefed the Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration on the Mission’s advisory support to Transnistria settlement process and confidence building through technical solutions provided to specialists from Chisinau and Tiraspol.

The parties also tackled the topic of vehicles with number plates issued in Transnistrian region, in the context of the recent resumption of the activities of the joint Vehicle Registration Offices (VROs) in Tiraspol and Ribnita, after their operations were suspended on March 20 during the state of emergency related to the Covid-19 pandemic. Deputy Prime Minister informed that, since 1 September 2018, VROs in Tiraspol and Ribnita have issued 3,801 neutral-designed license plates for Transnistrian vehicles to ensure their participation in the international traffic

“Although the COVID-19 circumstances impacted the speed of delivery under a number of activities, EUBAM carried out with the work on creating conditions for facilitating interaction between Chisinau and Tiraspol specialists and continued participation, as a part of the EU Delegation to the Republic of Moldova’s team in the videoconferences of the thematic Expert (Working) Groups on Customs, Road Transportation and Economy, Commerce and Foreign Trade.”, highlighted Slawomir Pichor, the Head of EUBAM

On her side, the Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration, Cristina Lesnic, commended the Mission’s activities in supporting Transnistria settlement process and reaffirmed the availability of the Republic of Moldova to ensure a further cooperation with EUBAM.

EUBAM congratulates the Moldovan Border Police officers on their professional holiday

On 10 June, the Border Police of the Republic of Moldova (MDBP) celebrated its 28th anniversary. On this occasion, EUBAM joined the events organized both in Chisinau and in Palanca, and congratulated the Moldovan Border Police officers for the hard work, commitment and all the sacrifices implied by their job, especially during this pandemic time and unprecedented challenges.

During the event organized in Palanca, Slawomir Pichor, the Head of EUBAM, handed over a congratulation letter to the Head of the General Border Police Inspectorate, General Corneliu Groza.

“You stood in the first line, being the first point of contact for travellers entering the country and you did it with dedication and high professionalism, playing a crucial role in contributing to the effort to control the disease, promoting safer communities, and fighting criminals who might have tried to take advantage of the outbreak. Happy Anniversary, dear Border Police officers and thank you once again for the great work you are doing!”, Head of EUBAM said during his special word for congratulation for the Moldovan Border Police officers.

The celebration held on the occasion of the MDBP professional holiday  was also a good opportunity for the Head of Mission to have a brief conversation both with the Head of General Border Police Inspectorate, General Corneliu Groza  and with the Minister of Internal Affairs, Mr Pavel Voicu, on EUBAM’s support to the Moldovan Border Police, especially that the event was held at Palanca-Maiaky-Udobne jointly operated border crossing, an EU funded project, supported by EUBAM in all aspects, from helping to apply for the EU funding on initial stage, to advising on the design and technical requirements related to the control procedures of the JOBCP later on. Both Moldovan high-level officials expressed their sincere appreciation for EUBAM’s work.

Together we are stronger

May has been always an important month, marked by Europe Day celebrations. This year has been even more important as the European Union also celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Schuman Declaration which represented the ground for the European Union project. And that project, from the beginning, has been based on the values of solidarity, openness, freedom, and respect for the rule of law. The momentum created by the six founding members has over the past decades drawn in almost the entire European continent, leading to a Union of now 27 member states and 450 million people.

But because of the pandemic, this year has been unique, and we celebrated the EU values behind closed doors, but still with opened hearts. With all the activities moved online, the solidarity among people mentioned by Shuman has been nowadays more visible than ever.

To win the race against COVID-19 and to mitigate the terrible impacts that it is having on our life, our economy, our societies, the European Commission has organized, a virtual pledging conference to mobilize financial resources in order to kick start the global cooperation to develop and deploy diagnostics, treatments and a vaccine which are affordable and accessible to all. The conference has been a real success and has resulted in a total pledge of 7.4 billion euros from donors around the world.

And coming to our region here, the European Council approved conclusions on the Eastern Partnership policy beyond 2020, reaffirming its strategic importance, and the joint commitment to building a common area of shared democracy, prosperity and stability. Moreover, it adopted a decision to provide up to 3 billion euros of macro-financial assistance to ten enlargement and neighbourhood partners to help them cope with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

So, even different than in the previous years, May, proved to be a month full of events and we were together like never before.

“Even if the outbreak of COVID-19 have profoundly changed our plans, we are happy to see that you’ve enjoyed the online film festivals, concerts, quizzes, contests, as well as the interesting facts and information about EU projects we shared on our social media platforms. Together we managed to prove that distance was not an obstacle when we had some many online events and interactive activities to bring us closer. With the hope that we will celebrate next year in person, I would like to thank you for joining us in celebrating the Europe Day during this month. We are happy to see you care about EU!”, noted Slawomir Pichor, the Head of the European Union Mission to Moldova and Ukraine.

 

#EuropeDay

#UnitedAgainstCoronavirus

 

 

 

European Union supports the Moldovan Border Police and Ukrainian State Border Guard Service in fighting the coronavirus pandemic

The European Union continued its response to the #coronavirus pandemic and provided support to the Eastern Partnership countries. To that end, the European Union Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine (EUBAM) delivered to the Border Police of the Republic of Moldova and the Southern Regional Directorate of Ukrainian State Border Guard Service 4,500 respirators (type FFP2) and face protective shields and 1,2 tons of antiseptic. Both the personal protective equipment and the antispetic aimed at reduction of coronavirus spread by keeping the border police\border guard offcers from the first line safer. Moreover, against the same background, EUBAM provided its partener services with 72 digital thermometers for instant fever detection of the travelers crossing the border.

„This support demonstrates the EU’s solidarity with these two countries at a time of unprecedented crisis. We must all stand together against the coronavirus pandemic.”, highlighted Slawomir Pichor, the Head of the European Union Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine.

EUBAM presents its Annual Report 2019

EUBAM is pleased to launch its latest Annual Report covering December 2018 to November 2019. The report highlights the Mission’s support to the achievements made by our partner services over that period, as well as EUBAM’s prominent ongoing activities on supporting confidence building measures across the Nistru River, implementing integrated border management concept and combating cross-border crime.

“Recalling the activities of EUBAM and its Partners during the past year, this is also an occasion to warmly thank and to also express my sincere gratitude to our Moldovan and Ukrainian strategic Partners for an excellent cooperation, hard work and commitment during 2019. Together we advanced the work on confidence building measures, integrated border management and cross-border crime, and we will definitely persevere in our joint efforts until we succeed in all the activities planned till November 2020.”, noted Slawomir Pichor, Head of Mission.

EUBAM helps Moldova and Ukraine to strengthen efforts in fighting illicit firearms trafficking

In December 2019, EUBAM and its Partner Services, supported by EUROPOL, Frontex and OSCE, initiated the joint cross-border working group on fighting weapons, ammunition and explosives  trafficking (Arms Working Group). The Working Group was established to enhance Ukraine and Moldova’s efforts in combating illicit firearms trafficking.

On 26 February 2020, in the framework of this initiative, the 1st Arms Working Group Meeting was held in Odesa. During the meeting experts from border, customs, police, security and nuclear regulatory agencies from the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, as well as Frontex, Europol and OSCE had the opportunity to exchange expertise and best practices and review trends and modus operandi in firearms trafficking in the region. Significant cases of weapons detection were also presented.

The members of the group agreed on the Action Plan for 2020 and expressed their confidence that the activities planned will significantly increase the international cooperation and enhance their operational capacity in counteracting this phenomenon.

A step forward in joint control implementation on the Moldova-Ukraine border

On 19-20 February, the meeting on implementation of joint control on the Moldova-Ukraine border was held at EUBAM HQ in Odesa. It brought together representatives of the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine, the State Customs Service of Ukraine and the Border Police of the Republic of Moldova, the Customs Service of the Republic of Moldova respectively.

Participants of the meeting discussed border and customs issues related to launching of full-fledged joint control at ‘Kuchurhan – Pervomaisk’ and ‘Giurgiulesti-Reni’ border crossing points (BCPs). In this respect, the procedures on return of persons and goods were elaborated.

Beyond that, border and customs agencies’ representatives of the two countries exchanged views on further steps towards implementation of joint control at other BCPs on the Moldova-Ukraine state border.

Background information: Modernization and rehabilitation works at Kuchurhan – Pervomaisk’ and ‘Giurgiulesti-Reni’ border crossing points are executed in the framework of the ongoing EU project ‘Enhancing integrated border management along the Ukraine-Moldova border’, implemented by IOM Ukraine (duration of the project: 01 November 2017 – 01 August 2020). Since ‘Palanca-Maiaky-Udobne’ jointly operated border crossing point (JOBCP)  was launched in December 2018, ‘Kuchurhan – Pervomaisk’ and ‘Giurgiulesti-Reni’ are the consequent JOBCPs on the Moldova-Ukraine state border, modernized with EU support after the new Agreement on joint control was signed by the Governments of Moldova and Ukraine in October 2017.

Progress achieved in preparatory work for full-fledged joint controls at the UA-MD border

On 30 January, EUBAM hosted the 8th Meeting of the Steering Committee of the EU project on ‘Enhancing Integrated Border Management along the Ukraine-Moldova border’, implemented by IOM Mission to Ukraine. Participants acknowledged a progress in the construction works at Kuchurhan-Pervomaisc and Reni-Giurgulesti border crossing points (BCPs). It was also agreed to extend the implementation period of the project until August 2020 due to broadening the scope of refurbishment works at Kuchurhan-Pervomaisc BCP and need for installing video control and automatic number plate recognition systems at those BCPs. The project is aimed at rehabilitating and enhancing the BCPs’ inspection facilities, and once completed it will facilitate the implementation of joint border control by both Ukrainian and Moldovan authorities in line with the EU best practices.

 Photo: New control booths at Reni BCP and Kuchurhan BCP 

Head of EUBAM meets Head of the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine

On 23 January, in Kyiv, Head of EUBAM, Slawomir Pichor, held a working meeting with the Head of the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine, Serhiy Deyineko. The interlocutors discussed prospects for rolling out joint control to other border crossing points at the Ukraine-Moldova border, in particular progress in the construction works and equipment renewal of Reni-Giugiulesti and Kuchurhan-Pervomaisc jointly operated border crossing points, as well as some key technical aspects regarding the enforcement of the joint control procedures. EUBAM activities and initiatives with UASBGS and other partners aimed at fighting cross-border crime and threats assessment were also tackled upon.

Concluding the meeting, Sergiy Deyineko expressed his gratitude for EUBAM’s contribution to enhancing cooperation between the border agencies of Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova. On his turn, Slawomir Pichor assured UASBGS of the Mission’s continuous support to the modernization of the border management with the purpose of strengthening the border security and facilitating legitimate travel and trade.

EUBAM and its Partner Services’ achievements in 2019

A photo overview of the most significant achievements of EUBAM and its Partner Services in 2019                                                                                           

EUBAM and Moldovan Border Police discuss actions for strengthening Mobile Units’ operations

On 10 January, in Chisinau, EUBAM held a working meeting with the senior management of the General Border Police Inspectorate of the Republic of Moldova and discussed strengthening of the Border Police mobile units’ operations. In this respect, earlier, following the request addressed by the Head of the General Border Police Inspectorate for supporting further development of the Border Police mobile units, the Mission carried out a review of operations of MDBP mobile units and shared the findings with the management of the agency. To this end, EUBAM held numerous meetings and discussions with MDBP representatives and reviewed the relevant Moldovan legislation.

During the meeting, the parties acknowledged the assessment of the current situation and EUBAM’s recommendations on enhancing effectiveness of mobile units’ operations, and also agreed on the follow-up actions.

Background information: Moldovan Border Police mobile units aim is to prevent, detect and counteract cross border crimes linked to illegal circulation of persons and vehicles; ascertain violations related to illegal stay of foreigners, and illegal border crossing by persons or vehicles. To this end, mobile units are deployed to different locations depending on operational needs and based on the use of risk analysis. They are used to patrol the green/blue border areas, to conduct road inspections in the border area or could be involved in a special operation.

New joint initiative for counteracting illicit trafficking in weapons, ammunitions and explosives

On 12 December 2019, the European Union Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine (EUBAM) together with the national Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) and supported by EUROPOL, Frontex and OSCE, launched a new joint initiative for counteracting illicit trafficking in weapons, ammunitions, explosives and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) materials.

To this end, a Joint Cross-Border Working Group was set up and entrusted to strengthen the Partner Services’ efforts in assessing, preventing, detecting and investigating these specific crimes. The group will also serve as a platform for exchange of information and sharing experience and best practices.

At the kick-off meeting held in Odesa, on 12 December, the participating agencies discussed working modalities and joint activities for 2020, aimed at increasing competences of LEAs’ personnel as well as strengthening the operational response and analytical support in that field.

In this context, Slawomir Pichor, Head of EUBAM highlighted: “As we all know, illicit firearms trafficking presents a serious threat to the regional security, often linked to organized crime, that has adverse impact on the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine and the European Union. Therefore, through launching this new initiative, EUBAM strengthens, together with its Partner Services, their efforts in tackling this threat. Only by collective actions and coordinated efforts, we can effectively prevent and reduce the risk of the illicit trafficking in weapons, ammunitions and explosives. I am grateful to EUROPOL, Frontex and OSCE that agreed to partnered us in this challenging initiative”.

 

Odesa students more aware about European Union support to Ukraine

On 06 December the Head of EUBAM Slawomir Pichor awarded certificates to the best performing students of Odesa I. Mechnikov National University who graduated EUBAM Module within the University’s EU-Ukraine Cooperation Study Course. The visit of the students, accompanied by their professors, to EUBAM Headquarters in Odesa concluded the series of joint events held by the Mission and the University in 2019.

EUBAM has been organizing this course for the University’s students in the final year of their Bachelor’s degree studies at International Relation Department for the third year in a row already. This year EUBAM module on EU-Ukraine Cooperation was delivered in October – November 2019 and consisted of three lectures as well as a visit to jointly operated border crossing point (JOBCP) ‘Palanca-Mayaky-Udobne’. EUBAM experts from Estonia, Germany, Poland and Romania spoke about EUBAM’s mandate, trade facilitation, integrated border management and Schengen Acquis, specific border checks and customs control procedures implemented at JOBCP, as well as the cooperation between EUBAM and its Partner Services.

Addressing the students, Head of Mission expressed confidence that the knowledge the students gained during EUBAM’s lectures would benefit them during their future professional activity. ‘EUBAM feels honored and proud to be hosted in such a beautiful country. The successful cooperation with Odesa I. Mechnikov National University gives us hope that our mandate here is impacting not only the technical work of border and customs agencies but also the life of the local citizens and Ukrainian society as a whole.’ he added.