Republic of Bulgaria

MI

 

29 Jun 2018

23 smugglers arrested, drugs and cigarettes seized during Frontex-led operation

Bulgarian Border Police coordinated the successful international actions against cross-border crime

 

On 11-22 June, Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, led an international action against serious and organised cross-border crime at EU’s borders with Western Balkan countries, Southeast Europe and selected border crossing points at the Eastern land border. For the first time, this action was co-led by customs authorities.

In less than two weeks, the international cooperation led to:

•    arrests of 23 migrant smugglers,

•    recovery of 31 stolen cars,

•    seizure of 330 000 of illegal cigarettes,

•    seizure 0.5 tonnes of drugs and

•    detection of more than 60 cases of document fraud. 

In addition, nearly 12 tonnes of tobacco were seized thanks to the support of the Slovak customs authorities.

Frontex officers also detected more than 2 160 irregular migrants and 580 persons staying in the European Union illegally.

The operation known as Joint Action Day Danube 3 targeted cross-border crime especially related to migrant smuggling, excise goods trafficking and document fraud but also stolen cars, drugs and counterfeited goods smuggling. The action was co-led by Bulgaria and Lithuania. The overall objective was the dismantling of the criminal networks behind cross border crime and bridging border police, criminal police and customs authorities.

Frontex deployed European Border Guard Team Members at selected border crossing points at EU’s external land borders, along with customs authorities from several member states, Europol and Interpol experts. The Frontex teams included stolen vehicle and document experts and border surveillance officers. Europol supported the action with its analytical capabilities and access to related databases.

Among the aims of JAD Danube 3 was to enhance the use of intelligence in operations, improve the cooperation between different member states involved in fight against cross border crime, especially in migrant smuggling, excise goods smuggling and document fraud.

The participants also set up a coordination centre in Sofia, Bulgaria to support the exchange of intelligence among them.

The operation was coordinated under the umbrella of the European Multidisciplinary Platform against Criminal Threats (EMPACT) as part of the EU Policy Cycle. It brings together police and law enforcement authorities of EU member states, European agencies and international organisations to jointly strengthen Europe’s borders and internal security.

Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Romania, Estonia, Greece, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Austria and Sweden took part in the action, as well as the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania and Montenegro.

In spring 2017, the EU adopted its next 4-year plan for the fight against serious and organised crime. This plan, known as the EU policy cycle, will run until 2021.

The policy cycle aims to tackle the most significant threats posed by organised and serious international crime to the EU.

EU and CELAC have strategic partnership on drugs

On 21-22 June 2018 Sofia hosted the 20th jubilee High Level Meeting of the Coordination and Cooperation Mechanism on Drugs of the European Union and The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (EU - CELAC). The meeting gathered representatives of the two regions, as well as representatives of the European Commission, the European External Action Service (EEAS), the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), Europol and COPOLAD. The event was part of the calendar of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU and was co-organised by the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Health.

During the discussions, a particular focus was placed on the joint measures to counteract the supply of drugs via darknet markets, which allow anonymous transactions, as well as on the development and implementation of social and health programmes for reducing drug demand.

The Bulgarian Presidency has worked actively over the past six months on these two topics, which were among the priorities in the home affairs area. A final document on Drugs and Darknet with recommendations and informal guidelines for future work in the fight against this phenomenon was prepared, and in terms of demand reduction, in March the JHA Council adopted Conclusions on Alternatives to Coercive Measures of the EU Council that are promoting the Member States engagement in this area.

“The fight against drugs is a challenge for security in each country. The cooperation between regions is of paramount importance for the effective counteraction to trafficking and trading in drugs,” said the Deputy Minister of Interior, Mr. Stefan Balabanov, in his welcome address. He emphasized the significance of the EU-CELAC partnership in achieving common standards, coherent actions and policies that focus on drug-related problems.

Along with the strategic issues related to the existing cooperation, the participants also discussed the situation in the two regions in relation to drugs and exchanged information on national strategies, experience and best practices. An annual report on the activities under the Coordination and Cooperation Mechanism on Drugs was adopted at the end of the meeting, as well as a joint declaration outlining the commitment of the two regions to continue their successful collaboration.

 

Background

The European Union and the Latin American and Caribbean States share a strategic partnership established in 1999 that has been significantly strengthened over the past years. The two regions cooperate closely on an international level on a wide range of topics and maintain an intensive political dialogue at all levels. The EU supports the cooperation through the implementation of regional and thematic programs in specific areas.

 

25 Jun 2018

Evidence-based measures are crucial for the drug policies effectiveness

High level representatives of the institutions in charge of drugs policies from the EU Member States, Latin America and the Caribbean gathered in Sofia for the COPOLAD II Annual Conference

 

On 19-20 June 2018, the Ministry of Interior co-organised the 3rd COPOLAD II Annual Conference ‘Women and drug policy. Progress and challenges in the implementation of the gender approach and the empowerment of women as a cross-cutting matter’. The event was part of the calendar of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU. The delegates reviewed the progress made in the recognition of the need to incorporate the gender approach across all areas of drug policies. They outlined that the programmes and initiatives undertaken in the last five years are reflecting the progress in this area. However, the specificities of drug-related problems between women and men need further exploration in view of the effectiveness of the responses.

‘We need to acquire extensive and evidence-based knowledge on this complex matter in order to better streamline our policies and practices and be able to implement a holistic and comprehensive approach,’ said Ms. Anelia Ivancheva, Bulgarian Presidency Chair of Horizontal Drugs Group.  Appreciating the opportunity that the conference gives to consider the problems of women empowerment from different angles, she stressed the importance of including the gender perspective in the full range of drug policy areas like prevention, treatment, harm reduction, rehabilitation, social and work insertion, as well as supply control.

The discussions during the event were also focused on the aspects that are most important when implementing evidence-based drug policies and programmes. The general opinion shared by the participants emphasized the need of more research into the different ways women are involved with drugs and the harms they suffer in view of incorporating in programming the gender-related vulnerabilities, such as stigma and discrimination, as they represent important factors affecting their lives.

 

Background

COPOLAD II is an EU funded cooperation programme between the European Union and The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) with important developments, achievements and serious impact over the global drug policy. It is currently in its second phase. The first phase (2011-2015) included the Latin American countries; 15 Caribbean countries have joined the programme in this second phase (2016-2019). COPOLAD is led by Spain through the International and Ibero-American Foundation for Administration and Public Policies (FIIAPP).

20 Jun 2018

SIRENE Bureaux are among the most successful tools for cooperation in the EU

 

Heads of the National SIRENE Bureaux gathered in Sofia on 12-13 June 2018, in the framework of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Representatives of all EU Member States and all Schengen associated countries, Europol, eu-LISA, the Commission and the General Secretariat of the Council took part in the meeting, hosted by the Bulgarian Ministry of Interior.

The delegates discussed strategic and practical aspects of the cooperation between SIRENE Bureaux and reviewed the Member States’ experience with the Schengen Information System (SIS) – the most efficient IT system in the area of freedom, security and justice that enables competent authorities to enter and consult alerts on specific categories of wanted or missing persons and objects. The Presidency reported on the activities during the past six months, the main initiatives being focused on enhancing SIRENE Bureaux’s role in countering terrorism.

“SIRENE Bureaux are decisive factor in facilitating the free movement of people within the Schengen area and in safeguarding the security of Europe. They have proven the added value of their work in the field of international police cooperation and border control,” said in his welcome address the Deputy Minister of Interior, Mr. Milko Berner. He emphasised that the Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council has recognised the SIS and SIRENE Bureaux co-operation as one of the most successful tools for effective collaboration between police, customs, other law enforcement and judicial authorities in the EU and the Schengen associated countries.

During the meeting, the delegates exchanged information on best practices and experience in view of SIRENE Bureaux capabilities for efficient implementation in practice of the Conclusions on strengthening the cooperation and the use of SIS to deal with persons involved in terrorism or terrorism related activities, including foreign terrorist fighters, adopted by the Council in the beginning of June. The participants also got acquainted with the priorities of the forthcoming Austrian Presidency of the Council of the EU.

 

Context

SIRENE stands for Supplementary Information Request at the National Entries. Each state operating the Schengen Information System (SIS) has set up a national SIRENE Bureau, operational 24/7, that is responsible for any supplementary information exchange and coordination of activities connected to SIS alerts. The Bulgarian SIRENE Bureau was established in 2006 as a specialised unit within the International Operational Cooperation Directorate of the Ministry of Interior.

13 Jun 2018

Schengen information system: agreement between the Council Presidency and the European Parliament

 

On 12 June 2018, the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council and the European Parliament reached an informal agreement on three regulations on the use of the Schengen Information System:

 

  • in the field of police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters
  • in the field of border checks
  • for the return of illegally staying third-country nationals

 

Valentin Radev, Bulgarian Minister of Interior: Information sharing is a key part of EU efforts to improve security and to manage migration, and the Schengen Information System (SIS) is an essential tool for this. The updated SIS rules will include new categories of alerts, closing any potential gaps and addressing new needs.

The draft regulations address potential gaps and introduce several essential changes to the current system on the types of alert entered.

They will contribute to strengthen the fight against terrorism and serious crime, ensuring a high level of security in the EU, and will help migration management.

 

Alert categories

The draft regulations introduce additional categories of alerts to the system:

  • alerts issued for the purpose of inquiry checks, an intermediary step between discreet checks and specific checks, which allows for interviews of individuals.
  • alerts on unknown suspects or wanted persons, which provide for the introduction into the SIS of fingerprints or palm prints discovered at the scenes of serious crimes or terrorist offences and which are considered to belong to a perpetrator.
  • preventive alerts for children at risk of parental abduction, as well as children and vulnerable persons who need to be prevented from travelling for their own protection (for example, where travel might lead to the risk of forced marriage, female genital mutilation, trafficking of human beings).
  • alerts for the purpose of return, which require the introduction of an alert in relation to return decisions issued to illegally staying third-country nationals, thus improving exchange of information in relation to return decisions.

They also expand the list of objects for which alerts can be issued, to include, among other, false documents and high-value identifiable objects , as well as IT equipment.

In addition, the introduction of alerts in the SIS as regards entry bans for third-country nationals becomes compulsory.

 

Types of data

The draft regulations introduce the possibility of using facial images for identification purposes, in particular to ensure consistency in border control procedures. It also allows for the inclusion of a DNA profile to facilitate the identification of missing persons in cases where fingerprint data, photographs or facial images are not available or not suitable for identification.

 

Access to data

Europol will be able to access all categories of data in the SIS and to exchange supplementary information with Member States SIRENE Bureaux. In addition, member states must inform Europol of any hits when a person is sought in relation to a terrorist offence. This will allow Europol's European Counter Terrorism Centre to check if there is any additional contextual information available in Europol's databases.

For the purposes set out in its mandate, the new European Border and Coast Guard Agency will also have access to the alert categories in SIS.

 

Next steps

The informal agreement will now be presented to EU ambassadors for confirmation on behalf of the Council. Following this, the regulation will be submitted to the European Parliament for a vote at first reading, and subsequently to the Council for adoption.

 

Background

The Schengen Information System is the most widely used and efficient IT system of the EU in the area of freedom, security and justice. The system contains more than 76 million alerts. In 2017 it was accessed more than 5.1 billion times by member states, triggering more than 240 000 hits on foreign alerts (alerts issued by another country).

 

In December 2016, the European Commission presented a legislative package to improve the SIS from a technical point of view and to respond to the development of certain forms of serious crime, including terrorism.

13 Jun 2018

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