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    • Fighting Organized Crime: High Figures on Paper, Few Tangible Results

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    • Date: 10 June 2019

      Successful fight against interference of politics in the work of the police will lead to more tangible results in the fight against organized crime, it was highlighted at the panel on Chapter 24 of EU negotiations organized by the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP) within the Seventh Plenary Session of the National Convention on the European Union (NCEU) on 10 June 2019 in Belgrade.

      The European Commission's highest criticism in the area of ​​Chapter 24 was aimed at the fight against organized crime, and recommendations for improvement have been repeated for years, said BCSP Director Sonja Stojanovic Gajic, who moderated the panel as the coordinator of the Working Group of the NCEU for Chapter 24.

      The lack of operational independence of the police, a small number of judgments after the arrests and insufficient capacity of the Internal Control Sector are key problems in the fight against organized crime within Chapter 24, Stojanovic Gajic said.

       "Organized crime is a problem that hurts citizens and whose effects are directly felt, and the lack of progress in this area has been recognized by the European Commission. Therefore, the panel on Chapter 24 is dedicated to this topic," Stojanovic Gajic pointed out.

      BCSP Researcher Bojan Elekpointed out that the problem of organized crime greatly affects the Serbian community in North Kosovo, during the session at which the President of the Republic of Serbia responded to civil society representatives’ questions.

      "Serbs in North Kosovo are mostly concerned about crime and poverty, and not relations with neighbours. In order to solve these problems, security cooperation with Serbia is key, as it was envisioned in Chapter 24. Can we expect that soon?" Elek asked Aleksandar Vucic.

      Elek explained the key to the resolution of this problem is the depoliticisation of the police.

      "The European Commission has been recommending depoliticization of police for years, and the OSCE wrote about it fifteen years ago. In order to finally implement the measures that will monitor it, the revision of the Action Plan for Chapter 24 should be utilized," Elek concluded.

      Assistant Minister of Interior and Head of the Sector for international cooperation, EU affairs and planning Zoran Lazarovresponded that the progress in the fight against organized crime and Chapter 24 is shown by the number of newly adopted measures, such as police cooperation in various fields and the harmonization of national strategic documents in the field of organized crime.

      The contrast between the results highlighted by the Ministry of Interior and data revealed by investigative journalists was underlined by KRIK journalist Milica Vojinovic.

      "Mafia liquidations continue to happen and journalists are constantly discovering the links of politicians with organized crime. Despite the large-scale arrests and ‘war announcements’ to the mafia, the number of sentences remains low," Vojinovic said.

      She pointed out that for the problem of organized crime, which enters into all spheres of society, a systemic solution is needed instead of pompous police actions.

      "Citizens and journalists don’t care about checking off measures on paper. They are worried about affairs being pushed under the carpet, without anybody taking responsibility for them. There are no systemic solutions," concluded Vojinovic.

      Lidija Komlen Nikolic of the Prosecutors Association of Serbiapointed to the problem of political influence within the prosecution, which contributes to a low number of sentences in organized crime cases.

      "The hierarchical structure of the prosecution is such that political pressure can be exerted on the entire system by ‘pressing one button’,” Komlen Nikolic emphasized.

      There is a gap that needs to be overcome between the official statistics of the institutions and what the journalists and civil society organizations recognize as challenges, it was concluded at the panel.

      The National Convention on the European Union (NCEU) is a permanent, institutionalized body within which a thematically structured debate takes place between representatives of the state administration, non-governmental organizations, politicians, experts, professional organizations and the general public on Serbia's accession to the European Union. NCEU consists of 21 working groups that cover the themes of all 35 chapters of the EU acquis. BCSP is the Coordinator of the Working Group for Chapter 24.

       

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