Streamlining the cargo flow from Ukraine to the EU discussed by the Head of EUBAM with the Head of the Moldovan Customs Service

On 8 June, the Head of Mission, Slawomir Pichor, held a working meeting with the Head of the Customs Service of the Republic of Moldova, Mr Igor Talmazan and his team. The EU High Level Adviser on Customs and Tax Policy, Mr Rosario de Blasio, also participated in the meeting. The sides discussed current challenges for the Customs Service arising from the increased flow of goods at the borders and the initiatives aimed at streamlining the management of cargo flow from Ukraine to the EU.

 

In the course of the meeting, the Head of the Customs Service of the Republic of Moldova, Igor Talmazan, presented the initiatives undertaken to facilitate the passage of trucks and reduce waiting times at the Border Crossing Points. The sides discussed the Customs Service actions introduced to streamline the processing of cargo for the import, export, and transit of goods from Ukraine.

 

From his side, the Head of EUBAM offered the Mission’s observations and suggestions regarding the current situation at the border. The Head of Mission also introduced EUBAM initiative to organize a High Level International Seminar on managing the flow of goods in a crisis situation and sharing best European practices, which the Moldovan Customs Service unanimously supported.

The EU steps up support to border management on the Moldova-Ukraine border

The mandate of the European Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine (EUBAM) has today been enhanced to allow the granting of executive powers to EUBAM, at the request of the Republic of Moldova and/or Ukraine. This will enable EUBAM staff to directly participate in border control, and complement the border management teams of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex). By doing so, the European Commission is making additional support available to Moldovan Border Police officers.

Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, Olivér Várhelyi, said: “The European Union stands with Ukraine, and we are stepping up our support to help the Republic of Moldova address the situation at its borders. EUBAM and Frontex will work together to help the Republic of Moldova efficiently manage arrivals at its borders with Ukraine while maintaining a high level of security”.

Since the start of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, EUBAM has reoriented its actions to assist in managing the influx of refugees into the Republic of Moldova, notably redeploying its staff to the border crossing points most under pressure.

The mission, with its new enhanced mandate, will complement the deployment of Frontex border management teams, and EUBAM and Frontex will closely cooperate in their tasks.

To help address the refugee inflows, scaled-up support for EUBAM worth €15 million will allow for the recruitment of additional staff, and provide equipment as well as training to newly-hired Moldovan Border Police officers.

In addition, the EU has launched a new action worth €15 million to support effective and dignified first line processing and transit of affected Eastern Partnership citizens, as well as safe and dignified voluntary returns of vulnerable third country nationals to their countries of origin.

Further funds could be foreseen to increase direct support for border management on key border crossing points at the Moldova-Ukraine border.

For more information follow the European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations.

EUBAM boosts risk management capacity of Moldovan Customs Service

Risk management plays a pivotal role in handling constant and emerging threats to safety and security of countries and their citizens, protecting and facilitating the legitimate trade. Therefore, it is important for customs authorities to stay abreast of new approaches and innovative tools in this area. On 12 May 2022, in order to build up the capacity of the Customs Service of the Republic of Moldova (MDCS) in this sphere, EUBAM conducted a relevant webinar where more than twenty customs officers involved in risk management activities from the central and regional levels took an active part. 

 

EUBAM experts, together with specialists from the Finnish Customs, Romanian Customs Authority, and National Revenue Administration of Poland, presented best European practices in the organization of risk management. In particular, special attention was paid to intelligence centers, advanced IT customs tools, and WCO’s risk management maturity levels. The European experts also got Moldovan risk analysis officers acquainted with key objectives of the EU Strategy on customs risk management, which can be used as a benchmark for ensuring high-quality implementation of the MDCS Risk Management Strategy. 

 

Among the novel concepts and trends presented during the webinar were the EU common risk management framework, common risk criteria, standards for security & safety, and financial risks. The participants also learned more about the role of pre-loading and pre-arrival information, priority control area, information sharing mechanisms, etc. Acquired know-how will boost the efforts of Moldovan Customs Service to enhance its risk management and assist in aligning it to the EU standards. 

EUBAM provides continuous support to the Ukrainian refugees

Since the onset of the Russian invasion on 24 February, EUBAM has played an essential role in facilitating the crisis management at the Ukraine-Moldova border. Being already present on the ground, the Mission was able to quickly assess the situation and start operating at critical locations, assisting refugees as well as border and customs authorities. 

Despite harsh weather, short daylight time, and long working shifts, the Mission was always at the border to support Ukrainians fleeing from war. At the entrance to the BCPs EUBAM experts provided all the essential information, explaining border crossing procedures for the people, most of whom were leaving their country for the first time in their lives. Crossing the border in such harsh conditions may be very stressful for the kids, so the Mission’s experts offered them toys and sweets to give some comfort and joy. Whenever possible, EUBAM teams provided support and helped the refugees on the spot, especially women with small children and people in need, carrying their luggage and facilitating transportation for pedestrians. Moreover, at Starokozache, to help the people traveling without vehicles, EUBAM outsourced the transportation services to cover the distance between the Ukrainian and Moldovan BCPs, which is around one kilometer. 

Considering that the final destination for most refugees was the European Union, EUBAM teams also explained entry requirements in the different EU Member States and advised on the best travel routes. To further facilitate the refugees’ transfer through the Republic of Moldova, EUBAM produced a guide with a map of transit routes to the EU and useful country-specific information, links, and resources. Now, EUBAM experts disseminate the guide at the border crossing points, and its electronic version is available on the Mission’s official website.

As of 6 May, more than 450 thousand Ukrainian refugees entered the Republic of Moldova, according to UNHCR data. A big part of them went to the Republic of Moldova in the first days – tens of kilometers-long car queues, hundreds of people, mainly women, children, and the elderly, were waiting to cross the border. Due to the unusually high number of refugees, border guard and customs officers were overloaded. To facilitate their work, EUBAM experts assisted in managing the refugee flow before the BCPs. Following the requests of the Moldovan side, EUBAM customs experts were also involved in the clearance of the increasing volumes of humanitarian aid entering Ukraine. At the same time, the Mission procured and donated first aid kits and meals ready to eat for the Ukrainian border authorities. 

Being present at the Moldova-Ukraine border for 16 years, EUBAM used its vast experience to assist humanitarian NGOs, UN agencies, and other international organizations that came to help the Ukrainian refugees. EUBAM experts facilitated their interaction with Moldovan and Ukrainian border authorities on the ground and assisted in implementing their activities.

EUBAM presents its 2021 Annual Report

EUBAM is glad to launch its latest Annual Report covering the period between December 2020 and November 2021. It highlights the Mission’s support for the major achievements made by our Partner Services over the reporting period. At the same time, the report demonstrates EUBAM’s principal ongoing activities and the achieved results in supporting confidence building measures across the Nistru River, implementing the Integrated Border Management concept and combating cross-border crime.

“I am honoured to present you the 2021 EUBAM Annual Report, which showcases accomplishments we achieved together with our Partner Services throughout the past year. The pandemic, dynamic political situation and budgetary constraints have put the implementation of our activities to the test. However, despite all those difficulties, I’m glad to state that the Mission has successfully passed it,” the Head of Mission Slawomir Pichor noted.

Useful information for Ukrainian refugees on transit through the Republic of Moldova

Considering the ongoing hostilities in Ukraine, many people are continuously fleeing the country in search of safety for themselves and their families. To support the Ukrainians, the EU Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine produced a guide with a map of transit routes to the EU through the Republic of Moldova, which also includes useful information for the trip. The guide will be disseminated by EUBAM experts at the border crossing points and its electronic version can be downloaded at the bottom of this webpage.

This guide provides useful links and resources that will help and guide you on your way out of Ukraine and in your further journey. As well, here, you can find country-specific information.

When preparing to leave:

  • Make sure the car fuel tank is full and your mobile phone charged; take water, food for several days, external battery/charger for the phone, and blankets. Your trip might take longer than expected due to checkpoints, border crossing points and traffic jams.
  • Take all documents necessary to cross borders. It will ease up the process. But don’t worry if you don’t have all, refugees will not be refused at any border! Save photos of your documents on your phone and send them to your email as a backup copy. 
  • Take cash with you as your credit or bank cards might not work in foreign countries.

 

While on the road:

  • Choose less busy border crossing points not to get stuck in a traffic jam. For up-to-date information on waiting time – check the Border Police of the Republic of Moldova official Facebook page
  • Refill your car regularly in order to have at least half the fuel tank all the time during your trip. 

 

When you cross the border:

  • Have all your travel documents prepared in advance.
  • Don’t leave your luggage unattended and hold kids by the hand so they don’t get lost.
  • Declare your cash and valuables with customs officers at the border crossing points.

 

After you cross the border:

  • Keep regular contact with family and friends. Inform them every time you change location.
  • Do not trust or follow persons you don’t know or just follow in groups. 
  • Watch your children at all times and do not leave them unattended.
  • Do not hesitate to ask Police officers or humanitarian organisations for support. They are present at nearly every border crossing point and at major train stations all over Europe. 

 

Useful links:

European Commission guide – Key information about your rights with regard to crossing the border into an EU country, eligibility for temporary protection, and applying for international protection, as well as the rights of travel inside the European Union.

EU NEIGHBOURS east  – Practical support for Ukrainian refugees: From procedures to transport, accommodation and jobs

UN Refugee Agency Ukraine – Information for refugees and asylum-seekers

Ukrainian national portal on countering human trafficking and assistance to migrants – Information on safety rules for girls and women crossing the border, as well as basic information on entry into the EU countries.

VisitUkraine – Ukrainian official portal, useful information for people leaving Ukraine

Moldova:

Dopomoga.gov.md – Official aggregator with useful information for those who decided to stay, or transit the Republic of Moldova;

lmmigration and Asylum Bureau of the Republic of Moldova – Information on receiving asylum in the Republic of Moldova

Romania:

Dopomoha.ro – Official aggregator of useful information for those who decided to stay, or transit Romania

Interactive map of transit routes through Romania to other EU states

Bulgaria:

Bulgaria for Ukraine – Platform supported by the government helps to provide evacuation, transport, accommodation, medical and humanitarian aid, legal assistance and settling down in Bulgaria

asylum.bg – Information on entry and stay in Bulgaria

Slovakia:

Official webpage of Slovakian Public sector – Information about entry and stay in Slovakia

ukraineslovakia.sk  – Aggregator of useful information for those who decided to move to Slovakia

Germany:

Federal Office for Migration and Refugees – Up to date information on entry and stay in Germany 

German Deutsche Bahn railway association – Information about free railway traveling 

Austria:

Austrian Federal Agency for Reception and Support Services – Information on entry and stay in Austria

Hungary:

Brochure: Travelling regulations for Ukrainians in Hungary

Hungarian Helsinki Committee – Information about special status and asylum in Hungary

Belgium:

Assistance in Belgium – Information on entry and stay in Belgium and further links for more information

Switzerland:

Swiss Refugee Council – Instructions for asylum seekers in Switzerland

Netherlands:

Dutch Council for Refugees – Information on entry and stay in the Netherlands

Finland:

Finnish Migration Service – Information on entry and stay in Finland

Czech Republik:

Official website of the ministry of interior – Information on entry and stay in the Czech Republic

United Kingdom:

gov.uk – Information about receiving a visa and asylum in the United Kingdom

EUBAM joins European Parliament delegation on a fact-finding visit to Palanca

From 31 March to 2 April, a European Parliament delegation traveled to the Republic of Moldova against the backdrop of a worsening security situation in Europe. In Chisinau, seven members of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee and Subcommittee on Security and Defence led by Urmas Paet (Renew Europe, Estonia) and Nathalie Loiseau (Renew Europe, France) met with Moldova’s top political leadership, including President Maia Sandu, Speaker of the Parliament Igor Grosu, Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilița, and Defence Minister Anatolie Nosatîi. 

In the context of that visit, on 1 April, EUBAM joined the European Parliament delegation on its fact-finding visit to Palanca – Udobne – Mayaki jointly operated border crossing point (JOBCP), operational at the Moldova – Ukraine border. Since the beginning of the Russian invasion, that JOBCP has become one of the main transit hubs for Ukrainian refugees fleeing the horrors of war through the South of the country. There, the EUBAM team, Moldovan authorities, and representatives of UNHCR, IOM, and EU Civil Protection Mechanism Team, together with the delegation, examined the situation on the ground and discussed how Moldovan authorities are managing the crisis and what kind of the support is still needed.

Head of Border Police of the Republic of Moldova, Rosian Vasiloi, provided a briefing on the challenges faced by the Agency in the context of the refugees’ crisis at the border and presented how the Border Police is managing the refugees’ flow as well as presented the extraordinary measures undertaken since 24 February. 

In his part, Head of Mission, Slawomir Pichor, briefed the delegation on EUBAM’s priority actions in response to the current refugee crisis highlighting the support EUBAM provided to vulnerable migrants in border crossing, and Partner Services in facilitating refugee flow management. 

EUBAM, together with the European Parliament delegation, also visited the refugee-support infrastructure at the JOBCP and met Ukrainians crossing the border. At the same time, the visitors had an opportunity to meet volunteers and representatives of the Moldovan authorities who coordinate the efforts of meeting and accommodating refugees. 

We stand with Ukraine

For 16 years EUBAM have been working to diminish cross-border crime at Ukraine’s border, today, we see the vicious crime of war crossing it. For 16 years Odesa has been home to the Mission’s headquarters, and today, missiles explode at our doorstep. For 16 years we have been working side by side with our friends – Ukrainian border guard and customs officers, and today, we are proud of our friends that are standing up to an unprovoked and unjustified attack carried out on Putin’s orders. As a part of the big EU family and as people who enjoyed this country’s hospitality for so many years, we stand with Ukraine. In these darkest hours our prayers go to all the border guards, customs officers and their families and to all innocent Ukrainian citizens who are victims of this cruel and brutal war.

EUBAM contributes to the first Ukrainian conference on combating illicit firearms trafficking

On 15 – 16 February EUBAM took part in the First National Conference on Preventing and Combating Illicit Trafficking in Weapons, Ammunition, and Explosives in all its Aspects organized by OSCE Project Coordinator in Ukraine. The conference addressed a wide range of topics, focusing on both legislative and operational aspects of the fight against the illicit trafficking of armaments in Ukraine.

EUBAM top experts together with representatives of Ukrainian authorities think tanks, the donor community and international organizations discussed a strategic approach towards preventing and combating illicit trafficking of weapons, ammunition, and explosives. The Mission’s speakers presented their insights and best European practices in risk management of illicit arms turnover. At the same time, EUBAM shared its experience in facilitating and enhancing the capabilities of the Mission’s Partner Services in combating arms trafficking at the Moldova-Ukraine border. To showcase an example of establishing good cooperation and coordination mechanisms, the Mission demonstrated the activity and achievements of the EUBAM Arms Working Group (AWG).

In light of this event, it is important to stress the good cooperation EUBAM and OSCE Project Coordinator in Ukraine enjoy within AWG. Since the very creation of the Arms Working Group in 2019, OSCE experts greatly contributed to its activity. The organization’s representatives keep AWG members abreast of the OSCE projects’ activities in the region, giving an analytical picture of weapons, ammunition, and explosives proliferation in the area. At the same time, OSCE actively supports the work of AWG by providing specific theoretical and practical training for the law enforcement officers working in the field.

EUBAM enhances Partner Services’ response to radioactive materials trafficking

On 25 – 27 January, EUBAM organized a practical exercise to enhance the response of Ukrainian border guard and customs officers to a threat of radioactive materials smuggling. Together with European experts, specialists of the Ukrainian State Border Guard Service, State Customs Service as well as Ukrainian national agencies and bodies involved in nuclear regulation built up their operational capacities to detect and interrupt the hazardous radiological materials trafficking. Representatives from the Moldovan Border Police, Customs Service and National Agency on Regulating the Nuclear Activities also took part in the exercise providing their insights as observers.

Operational phase of the exercise was held at the Kuchurhan-Pervomaisc international border crossing point. Following the elaborated three-stage scenario, the Ukrainian specialists demonstrated their expertise in handling radiological threats. The participants successfully detected radioactive materials when they were “smuggled” both in and out of the territory of Ukraine by various types of transport. Throughout all exercise stages, EUBAM experts shared best European practices that will enhance both detection and post-detection procedures of its Partner Services. Moreover, as a result of the exercise, the participants were able to outline legislative gaps, which when amended, would streamline better interagency cooperation in nuclear and radiological safety.

Commenting on the practical exercise results, Slawomir Pichor, Head of the European Union Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine, stated: “Given the danger posed by nuclear materials, it is of the greatest importance for EUBAM to continuously enhance the strategic and operational response of our Partner Services to such threats. Exercises, like this one, not only provide an excellent training ground but also indicate a room for improvement, which, I trust, would be addressed. As for the exercise itself, it was fruitful in many aspects, but most importantly I would like to highlight a good level of coordination between national stakeholders involved in nuclear security.”

Head of EUBAM meets the leadership of Moldovan Customs Service and Border Police

On 24 January, Head of EUBAM paid a working visit to the Republic of Moldova to foster the ongoing and future cooperation with EUBAM’s key Partner Services. In Chisinau, Head of Mission held two meetings with the Director of the Customs Service, Mr. Igor Talmazan, and Head of the General Border Police Inspectorate, Mr. Rosian Vasiloi.

In the course of the meetings the parties discussed the results of joint activities implemented in 2021, especially, the Joint Assistance Exercise “Stronger together”, carried out by EUBAM at six Jointly Operated Border Crossing Points aimed to verify the level of practical implementation of the joint control principles and to formulate a series of recommendations for strengthening its effectiveness. In this context, the officials exchanged views on the implementation of joint control at the Moldova-Ukraine border and its practical aspects.

Leadership of the Moldovan General Border Police Inspectorate, and Customs Service briefed the Head of EUBAM on the current progress in optimization of the border and customs agencies’ structures. The sides discussed major challenges posed by cross-border crime alongside the Moldova-Ukraine border and analysed possible joint actions to counter them. At the same time, the participants examined possibility to enhance operational capacities of both agencies through Mission’s assistance.

Heads of the Moldovan border and customs agencies also shared their vision and priorities for the implementation of the 2021-2023 Integrated Border Management Action Plan. Among the most important were mentioned: the extension of the joint control to other border crossing points, the modernization of border infrastructure and its endowment with modern equipment, as well as continuous bilateral and multilateral cooperation. At the end, Head of EUBAM assured that the Mission would continue to support Partners in the Republic of Moldova in the modernization of border management and its fight against cross-border crime.

EUBAM convenes 4th Arms Working Group meeting

On 17 December, EUBAM together with Europol, Frontex, UNODC, OSCE, and representatives of law enforcement agencies from Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova convened the fourth operational meeting of the Arms Working Group in a video-conference format.

In the course of the meeting, the participants discussed activities implemented by the group over the past year, namely in the fields of enhancement of cooperation, analytical support, operational capacity building, as well as joint operations and investigations. International experts presented to Ukrainian and Moldovan law enforcers a comprehensive assessment of current threats related to illicit trade in weapons, ammunitions, and explosives in Europe. In their turn, law enforcement experts from the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine presented recent cases and trends in the field of illegal arms detection at the BCPs and in the border area. In the end, the participants discussed the plans of the group for 2022.

The Head of EUBAM, General Slawomir Pichor highlighted the productive work the group demonstrates for the second year in a row and commented, “When it comes to combat such somber phenomenon as illicit firearms trafficking, Arms Working Group has proved itself as a platform of the utmost importance, for it  helps to consolidate the knowledge, experiences, and efforts of Moldovan and Ukrainian law enforcement agencies as well as international actors, at the same time strengthening joint countermeasures against the smuggling of arms, ammunition, and explosives.”

EUBAM Advisory Board promotes fully-fledged joint control along the Moldova Ukraine border

On 30 November 2021, the 37th Advisory Board Meeting of the European Union Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine took place in an online format. The event brought together representatives from 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.

The Advisory Board warmly welcomed its new chairman, His Excellency, Ambassador Jānis Mažeiks and got acquainted with an overview of activities performed by the Mission for the period of June – October 2021. The participants acknowledged the progress in the implementation of EUBAM 12 Action Plan, expressing their satisfaction with the continuous and active cooperation among the Mission and its Partner Services.

EU Ambassador to the Republic of Moldova, Jānis Mažeiks reiterated EU‘s commitment to build strong relations with its closest neighbours, based on genuine partnership. EUBAM is, in that respect, an illustration on how the EU continuously supports this objective, for the benefit of Moldovan and Ukrainian citizens: “I would like to congratulate all partners on the successful implementation of EUBAM 12 phase and to express our gratitude for their efforts, despite the challenges faced during this period of implementation. EUBAM continues to play a key role in promoting integrated border management and in fighting organized crime, and we would like to encourage all parties to continue their efforts for tangible results to be achieved in the coming months”.

The Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Ukraine, Matti Maasikas, said: “Recent crises have made the importance of a rapid and efficient coordination among cross-border agencies even clearer. The EU welcomes Ukraine’s readiness to re-criminalise smuggling to avoid losses to the state budget, to stop distorting competition among businesses and to ensure public health and safety. We are looking forward to having established legal and regulatory framework for criminalisation of large-scale smuggling including on jurisdiction for investigative mandate. We stand ready to support the agency mandated with investigative powers to develop the needed technical capacities. We also encourage Ukraine and Moldova to proceed carrying out joint border operations at the agreed border crossing points between the two countries and to expand joint control to other border crossing points along the common border, in accordance with the 2017 Agreement on Joint control, national IBM strategies and shared priorities. This is the best way to ensure people-to-people contacts, increase security and prevent cross border crime.”

Andrei Popov, the Head of Multilateral Cooperation Directorate of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of the Republic of Moldova noted: “We would like to highlight the valuable contribution that the EUBAM has brought during these years to the implementation of the integrated border management, strengthening of the institutional capacity, staff training and combating cross border crime. The EUBAM advisory board meetings remain an efficient platform where we can assess the results of our common efforts, discuss in a sincere and pragmatic way the aspects that should be improved, thus giving new impetus to our further fruitful cooperation. In this context, we would like to express our gratitude to the Mission for the activity carried out in the last five months taking also into consideration the challenging times we are facing. We are convinced that we should continuously work together in order to achieve tangible results, in particular on the full implementation of the integrated border management concept. In this context, we would like to reiterate our willingness to continue our enhanced cooperation and encourage EUBAM to keep the same proactive approach in order to achieve our common goals.”

Mr. Serhii Saienko, Deputy Director General of the Directorate for the European Union and the NATO of Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stated: “Combating cross-border crime, including drug and illicit firearms trafficking, as in any other country, requires the consolidated efforts of law enforcement agencies. The EUBAM assisted Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova in developing a government-led approach with a strategic vision to address and prevent both, which became potential threat and challenge nowadays. I would like to re-iterate the commitment of Ukraine to continue diligently implementing in full the integrated border management concept under the specific objective 2 in partnership with EUBAM and our partners from the Republic of Moldova”.

Head of EUBAM, General Slawomir Pichor thanked all the participants for their valuable contributions and said: “The developments during the reporting period have proven that, despite challenging times, it was still possible for EUBAM and its partner services to adapt to the new circumstances and move forward with the implementation of the Action Plan. With that being said, I would like to restate my appreciation to all our Moldovan and Ukrainian Partners for their cooperation and support and assure that EUBAM will continue to stay the same committed partner for contributing to a qualitative change in border management.”

The Advisory Board Meeting will meet again in June 2022.

EUBAM shares best European practices of random control

On 18 November, EUBAM has organized an online workshop on the application of random control in the risk analysis system for top management and officers of the State Customs Service of Ukraine. The Mission invited officers of the National Revenue Administration of the Republic of Poland to be the main speakers of the event. Representatives of the Customs Service of the Republic of Moldova also joined the workshop to broaden their knowledge on the matter.

Experts from the National Revenue Administration of the Republic of Poland introduced the participants to their approach towards basic principles, functions, and goals of random control. At the same time, the participants discussed conditions for proper functioning and effective implementation of the random control, paying special attention to practical aspects of this issue. Polish experts shared with their Ukrainian and Moldovan counterparts their experience in the implementation of random control into the risk analysis system and its effective usage in countering smuggling. At the end of the workshop, the Ukrainian and European customs professionals had a roundtable discussion on the implementation of random control within the State Customs Service of Ukraine.

Referring to the outcome of the workshop, the Head of EUBAM, general Slawomir Pichor said, “On the one hand, proper random control procedures help to counter non-compliance by companies that are well-aware of methods and measures applied by customs officers. On the other, its very random nature helps to minimize the risk of corruption’s influence on the illegal inflow of goods and contraband into the country. Because of these unpredictable checks, customs authorities stay alert and updated as risks constantly evolve with time. Thus, workshops like this, not only help our partners to get acquainted with the best European practices on the matter but also to establish a dialogue with their EU counterparts and exchange valuable practical experience.”

Task Force Tobacco unites international efforts in fight with illicit tobacco

On 9-10 November, the EUBAM held the Annual Task Force Tobacco meeting in an online mode. Experts from law enforcement agencies of the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine, Poland, and Romania, as well as SELEC, and OLAF, took part in this event. The business sector participated in the meeting as well, Ukrainian Tobacco Association “Ukrtutun”, KPMG International and the major cigarette producers providing their valuable insights on the matter.

There were two topical issues connected to the illicit tobacco products in the spotlight of the meeting, namely – cigarette smuggling and their illegal production. The Head of OLAF’s Sector Tobacco, Salvatore Catania provided the global overview on counterfeit cigarettes and the ways of tackling them. At the same time, Ukrainian and Moldovan law enforcers shared insights from their national perspective. In its turn, representatives from the EU agencies shared with their Ukrainian and Moldovan counterparts the most effective methods and ways of combatting illicit cigarette production. The business sector also presented its overview of the illicit cigarette markets in Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova, showcasing the way they influence the European market of illegal tobacco products.

Vadym Melnyk, the Director of Bureau of Economic Security of Ukraine was a keynote speaker of the event. Mr. Melnyk acquainted the participants with the role of the newly created bureau in combatting cigarette-related frauds. He also raised problems and put forward proposals to limit the illicit trade in tobacco products. Debating on legislative aspect of combatting the illicit flow of tobacco products, the participants welcomed the Ukrainian initiative on criminalization of smuggling.

In the course of the meeting, EUBAM shared the results of the Joint Border Control Operation “SCORPION II”, during which 8,5 million cigarettes were seized. The Task Force Tobacco highly appreciated the work EUBAM did, at the same time urging the Moldovan and Ukrainian responsible agencies to investigate the origins of certain cigarettes seized during the operation and take appropriate action.

“Despite undertaken legal and administrative measures, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, together with their neighbouring countries, are under continuous illicit tobacco pressure. This situation generates serious risk to border security, fueling organized crime, stimulating corruption, affecting the economies of both states. Therefore, to combat this threat, initiatives like Task Force Tobacco are of the utmost importance,” stated the chairman of the Task force Tobacco, the Head of the European Union Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine, General Slawomir Pichor.

NB* Task Force Tobacco was launched by EUBAM in 2010 to serve as a platform for combining national and international efforts to combat illicit tobacco products in the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine.

Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration of the Republic of Moldova pays a visit to the EUBAM HQ

On 8 October, the Deputy Prime Minister for the Reintegration of the Republic of Moldova, Mr Vladislav Kulminski accompanied by the Head of the Bureau for Reintegration Policies, Mr Alin Gvidiani, and the Consul of the Republic of Moldova in Odesa, Mr Ion Ciorniy paid a visit to the EUBAM HQ in Odesa.

The Head of Mission, Mr Slawomir Pichor, briefed the guests on the EUBAM’s mandate and work on the ground. In his turn, the Deputy Prime Minister informed EUBAM about the most recent developments in the Transnistrian settlement process pertinent to the Mission’s activities.

The discussions focused on the current stage of the implementation of joint control, border infrastructure modernization and trends in border traffic at the Moldova-Ukraine border. The officials also shared their insights on the participation of Transnistrian economic operators in the international trade and the admission of vehicles from the Transnistrian region to the international road traffic.

At the end, the parties expressed their willingness to continue cooperation on Transnistrian region-related confidence building measures as well as in identifying viable solutions to topical issues on the settlement negotiations agenda.

Best European practices for strengthening cross-border information exchange

Even though there is a good level of cooperation between Moldovan and Ukrainian border agencies, when it comes to fighting cross-border crime, secure and effective information exchange is pivotal. With this in mind, EUBAM hosted a workshop for its Partners from the Ukrainian Border Guard Service and Moldovan Border Police on the Europol’s Secure Information Exchange Network Application (SIENA). On 14 September, a total of 46 participants took part in the workshop, including speakers from Europol and the German Federal Police, decision-makers and experts from the border agencies of the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, as well as observers from the National Police of Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova.

In the course of the workshop experts from the European law enforcement agencies introduced SIENA to the Ukrainian and Moldovan border guards and policemen, offering them a better understanding of what SIENA is and what useful features it has for a secure data transfer, making it an application of choice especially for the jointly operated border crossing points. German Federal Police demonstrated practical implementation of SIENA in the Police and Customs Cooperation Center (PCCC) Passau, at the border between Germany and Austria. At the same time representatives of National Police of the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, which already successfully use that system to exchange intelligence with their European counterparts shared their experience. In the end, the participants discussed the peculiarities and strategy for the possible future SIENA’s implementation at Common Contact Point (CCP) Palanca.

According to Europol, it could be the first time when non-EU countries use this Europol system for secure information exchange between each other.

On guard against illicit cigarette trade

In the evening of 8 September, officers of the Customs Service of the Republic of Moldova seized almost 2 million illicit cigarettes at the administrative boundary line. The cigarettes were detected in a truck full of sand thanks to the law enforcers’ professional risk analysis. On this occasion, EUBAM congratulates the Customs Service of the Republic of Moldova on the good-performed job and wishes more such successful operations in the future.

Illicit tobacco trade is a key threat in EUBAM’s area of operations making it one of the highest priorities for the Mission. Especially, this notorious phenomenon is acute at the central segment of the Mission’s area of operation. The problem is rooted in previous excessive import of cigarettes to Transnistrian region, when in 2020 approximately 1.7 billion cigarettes were legally imported to the region. At the same time, the elevated risk of illicit cigarette trade is provoked by the discrepancy between cigarette taxation levels in Chisinau and Tiraspol. Consequently, on the right bank of the Nistru River you will pay 2.4 EUR for the average pack of cigarettes, on the left bank you will buy it for a little more than 1 EUR. Considering the proximity of the European market with considerably higher prices for tobacco produce, illicit trade is a real cornucopia for all sorts of smuggling activities.

Hence, EUBAM has been actively supporting and assisting partner services in their fight against illicit tobacco since 2005. Through advisory activity on risk analysis and regular on-the-job mentoring on perpetrators’ modi operandi, the Mission continues to enhance operational and strategic capacities of Ukrainian and Moldovan law enforcers at the different levels. Finally, yet importantly, it is essential to highlight the activity of EUBAM-driven Task Force Tobacco Group, which creates a unique platform for strategic cooperation between law enforcement agencies of the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine, representatives of EU, and major cigarette producers.