A photo overview of the most significant achievements of EUBAM and its Partner Services in December 2020 – March 2021.
Tobacco products being harmful on their own do even more harm when laws that should control them are breached. In the Republic of Moldova, as in any country, enforcement of tobacco control legislation is pivotal for the creation of a transparent and controlled market of tobacco products. That is why, on 31March, EUBAM has organized an online workshop devoted to this issue. The event brought together high-level officials from Moldovan Customs Service and the National Public Health Agency, alongside the EU High-Level Adviser on Customs and Tax Policy.
During the workshop, participants debated legal aspects of tobacco control, including requirements for import and health labelling of such products. EUBAM experts shared an analysis of the cigarette market in region. At the end of the event, representatives of the Moldovan Customs and National Public Health Agency agreed to elaborate a Cooperation Protocol aimed at enforcing tobacco control and impeding the illicit tobacco trade.
The high-level Moldovan officials from both agencies welcomed the EUBAM initiative and invited all relevant stakeholders from the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine to join and coordinate efforts on counteracting the illicit tobacco trade. Joint action on the enforcement of tobacco control legislation as well as strengthened efforts towards bringing imported tobacco products in compliance with national health regulations would contribute both to the reduction of cross-border crime, reinforcement of the national budgets, and to health of the citizens.
When COVID-19 threatens the health and wellbeing of Ukrainian and Moldovan citizens, firearms and drug traffickers, smugglers and organized crime groups develop their modi operandi trying to take advantage of the pandemic. Considering these threats, building up the capacity of partner services is a Mission’s priority. Therefore, on 24-25 March, EUBAM in cooperation with Europol – the European Union law enforcement agency – has organized online mentoring sessions on strategic intelligence analysis.
Representatives of nine different law-enforcement agencies of Ukraine and Moldova were participating in the joint lectures and workshops aimed at enhancing their strategic planning capabilities. During the exercises, Ukrainian and Moldovan law enforcers, together, practiced mapping out a strategic overview of domestic and international threats. Europol experts paid a special attention to sharing new approaches towards gathering intelligence and its analysis. The experts showcased the best and state-of-the-art practices from across EU member states including recent operation ARMSTRONG that led to the seizure of 300 units of different weapons and 600 pieces of ammunition.
Enhanced expertise in strategic intelligence analysis will facilitate prevention and investigation of cross-border crime, as well as contribute to safety and security not only across the Moldova-Ukraine border but in the entire region.
On 12 March, the Head of EUBAM, Slawomir Pichor, met with the Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration, Olga Cebotari, at the premises of the Government of the Republic of Moldova in Chisinau.
The parties discussed and shared opinions on topical issues of the Transnistria settlement process: participation of Transnistrian economic operators in international trade and admission of vehicles from Transnistrian region to international road traffic.
The Head of EUBAM reconfirmed the Mission’s readiness to continue its advisory support to the Transnistria settlement process and confidence building through delivery of technical solutions and capacity building events to specialists from both banks of the Nistru river.
On her part, the Deputy Prime Minister emphasized the Moldovan authorities’ interest in receiving assistance and technical expertise to back the efforts in identifying viable solutions to topical issues on the settlement negotiations agenda.
At the end, the officials expressed their willingness to continue the dialogue on various aspects of mutual interest, as well as to strengthen the interaction, to prompt sustainable solutions to the Transnistria-related confidence building measures.
On 24 February, EUBAM and representatives of law enforcement agencies from Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova, together with Europol, Frontex, OSCE and UNODC held, in a video-conference format, the third operational meeting of the Arms Working Group (AWG).
The participating agencies discussed and approved the AWG Action Plan for 2021, which includes activities such as regular and operational meetings, threat assessments, joint operations, international workshops and trainings.
Furthermore, the final version of the Guidebook on Controlled Delivery, prepared by EUBAM, in cooperation with the members of the AWG from the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, was introduced and approved during the meeting. The document aims at improving law enforcement and judicial cooperation between authorities involved in each of the countries, as well as knowledge of the national legislation and practices, thereby facilitating controlled deliveries as part of the joint efforts in fighting illicit firearms trafficking
The European agencies, Europol and Frontex, briefed the participants on the strategic picture of illicit trafficking in weapons, ammunition and explosives in Europe with a special focus on southeastern Europe, providing operational examples. Additionally, Europol offered to conduct a theoretical training on risk analysis for the members of the AWG.
OSCE representatives from Ukraine provided the AWG members with a comprehensive overview of OSCE projects in the region, giving an analytical picture of the proliferation of weapons in the area. OSCE will actively support the activities of the AWG by providing specific theoretical and practical training sessions for the law enforcement officers working in the field.
In their turn, the representatives of the Moldovan and Ukrainian law enforcement agencies gave an overview of the situation on the ground at their common border.
EUBAM briefed the participants on the results of the joint operation “ORION II” that aimed at preventing and counteracting illicit firearms trafficking in the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, including the EU external borders with the two partner countries. Although affected by the coronavirus pandemic, the operation resulted into a significant number of detentions of small arms (194 pcs.), light weapons (282 pcs.), ammunition (6,389 pcs.) and explosives (19 pcs./4,65 kg).
In the end, the members of the Arms Working Group expressed their content with the output of the meeting and affirmed their faith that the future activities planned within the Group would significantly increase the international cooperation and enhance their operational capacity in counteracting this phenomenon.
Nota bene: Arms Working Group was established in December 2019, at EUBAM and its Partner Services’ initiative, and with the support of Europol, Frontex and OSCE, for enhancing the efforts of the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine in combating illicit firearms trafficking.
On 15 February 2021, the Head of the European Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine (EUBAM), Slawomir Pichor, met with the Head of the Odesa Regional State Administration, Serhii Hrynevetskyi, to discuss joint efforts in developing the border infrastructure in Odesa Region.
Head of EUBAM congratulated Mr Serhii Hrynevetskyi on his recent appointment and expressed gratitude to the Odesa Regional State Administration for the good cooperation. He also informed the Governor about prolongation of the EUBAM’s mandate till the end of November 2023 and about its three key areas of activity: Transnistria-related confidence-building measures, border management, and fighting the cross-border crime. In this connection, Mr Pichor briefed the Governor on the European Union’s support in the reconstruction of several border crossing points in Odesa region and the implementation of the Integrated Border Management provisions: joint border control, joint border patrolling and information exchange.
Mr Serhii Hrynevetskiy appreciated EUBAM’s contribution to the development of Odesa Region, particularly in improving border infrastructure, facilitation of trade and contact between people of Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova. Mr Hrynevetskiy particularly highlighted the projects on the reconstruction of border crossing points in Odesa region to facilitate the cargo and passenger traffic and the support in the coordination activities with the Moldovan authorities, i.e. roads / bridges construction projects and border demarcation process.
The parties agreed to consolidate their efforts in upgrading border infrastructure and increasing the border security.
The European Union Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine (EUBAM) wishes you a happy holiday season and a prosperous new year 2021!
We are looking forward to continuing our cooperation with all our partners in the new year 2021!
On 17 December, a web conference on the implementation of joint control at the Moldova-Ukraine border was coordinated by EUBAM, in cooperation with IOM, bringing together representatives of the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine, the Border Police of the Republic of Moldova, the State Customs Service of Ukraine and the Customs Service of the Republic of Moldova, that share competencies on that matter.
The main topics on the agenda were the border and customs issues associated with the launch of full-fledged joint control at ‘Kuchurhan-Pervomaisk’ and ‘Giurgiulesti-Reni’ border crossing points (BCPs). In that regard, the parties provided an overview over the refurbishment works and discussed the organization preparations and the time frame for launching the full-fledged joint control at the two BCPs, in conformity with COVID-19 restriction measures.
Additionally, border and customs agencies’ representatives of the two countries discussed matters of common interest connected to the border infrastructure development plans at the Moldova-Ukraine border for 2021 and beyond, as well as the state of affairs in the implementation arrangements on the Agreement on Joint Control concerning the moving of persons, vehicles and goods across the Ukraine-Moldovan state border.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A photo overview of the most significant achievements of EUBAM and its Partner Services in December 2019 – March 2020
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.
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.