1. Hungary as the president of the Visegrad countries in this tenure of 2001
Hungary as one of the founding members of the Visegrad countries (V4) took over the presidency of the organisation for the second part of 2001. Within the framework of this Central-European regional co-operation the Government of Hungary is committed to launch several programmes in order to promote the accession of the candidate countries to the EU as well as to enhance their more effective power to enforce their common interest.
In 2000 the Government of Hungary adopted and the Parliament of the Republic of Hungary ratified the "National Strategy to Combat the Drug Problem", which is the conceptual framework of the Hungarian Government's anti-drug strategy. The strategy accentuates that the success of combating drugs requires the development of wide-ranging international co-operation. Consequently the Republic of Hungary strongly desires to be an active participant in the international endeavours aimed at preventing the illegal production, trafficking in, and consumption of drugs and takes charge of reinforcing the international rallying of forces to overcome the drug problem.
In the spirit of the Hungarian drug national strategy and the Declaration on Visegrad Co-operation, the Government of Hungary takes decisive measures in the field of curbing drug problems, and urges, under international co-operation, the intensive control and eradication of drug trafficking routes and smuggling networks.
The Danube Seminar was held in full accordance with this objective.
2. The Purpose of the Danube Seminar
The general purpose of the meeting was to improve international co-operation along key drug traffic routes, and to ensure effective implementation of drug-related legislation, to enable participants to better deal with drug-related mutual legal assistance and to provide them with sufficient general knowledge of drug problems, national as well international.
3. The Meeting
The regional legal meeting involving judges, prosecutors, law-enforcement personnel and officials from Ministries of Justice, Interiors, Health and National Drugs Councils, to develop common operational strategies against drug trafficking and money laundering among Danube States along Southern Balkan Routes was held in Budapest from 6 to 9 June 2001.
The joint initiative of UNDCP and Hungary for the legal meeting was very ambitious since its objectives was to bring together as many countries from the region as possible not only to meet the requirements of better legal co-operation, but also to enhance mutual understanding and respect in the region as well.
The outcome was beyond the highest expectation. Taking into account the recent changes in Croatia and Yugoslavia, this was the first time that such a meeting was arranged to improve judicial co-operation which included both Balkan countries and other Central and Eastern European countries on the Balkan route, and all V4 countries at the same time. The highly professional multi-disciplinary delegations attended from the following countries: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary (host country), Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Yugoslavia.
4. Outcome of the Meeting
The meeting was a success on several points. First, it allowed measuring the progress made by these countries in ten years in improving the effectiveness of regional co-operation. All delegations were able to work in English and many delegates were highly competent young professionals able to prepare accurate and precise presentations to answer issues raised. As most of these countries are candidates to join the EU and compete to be the first ones it was positive that they could in this forum develop a regional dimension and identity towards a common goal. It also created the perception that a multi-disciplinary approach is needed to tackle these issues as many difficulties stem from the communication and co-operation problems between different institutions involved in each country.
Second, the meeting allowed the establishment of personal relations and exchange of experience both inside each delegation (overriding difficulties between different ministries/institutions) and between delegations especially between countries that are seen to have strong political and historical conflicts (Croatia–Yugoslavia–Bosnia and Herzegovina–Slovenia; Romania–Bulgaria, etc.). In the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the presence of both entities and the State permitted a progressive development of exchange inside the delegation. The presence of the representative of the Office of the High Representative in Sarajevo also contributed to this. The fact that Yugoslavia sent a delegation was an important breakthrough towards establishing normal relations with the country.
Third, participating delegations were made aware of the possibilities offered by articles 5, 6, 7 and 11 of the 1988 Convention and of their low level of implementation until now in the region.
Fourth, it allowed UNDCP/LAP to get a clear picture of the drug trafficking, money-laundering and organised crime situation in the region and the difficulties in relation to judicial cooperation between the countries of the region. It also revealed needs for further initiatives and assistance to the region as a whole and to some countries in particular. Due to the particular situation in the region the objective was also to create a dynamic that the participants and the countries could themselves further develop in co-operation with UNDCP and other relevant partners.
a) Trafficking Situation in the Region
The whole region as such is a key link in Balkan route. When it comes to seizures Bulgaria stood out as having very high numbers (at one single checkpoint between Turkey and Bulgaria) and increasing quantities of drugs in each seizure. Traffickers take advantage of the specificity of each country such as loopholes in legislation and enforcement and regional location (corruption; tourism etc.).
The region is also a producing country for cannabis (Balkan) and methamphetamine, ephedrine and ecstasy (Central Europe).
Some of the countries of the region have already an existing abuse problem comparable to that of Western Europe and in the others it is increasing with many different types of drugs on the market (metamphetamine, heroin, ecstasy, cannabis).
The conclusion of the discussion on this point was that even if there were differences all the countries were in comparable situations but at different stages of development: transit countries in which organised crime, consumption and production were developing as a result of this transit, of political and institutional change and general economic development. The input of Mr. Gonzalez-Ruiz (CICP) concerning the very comparable situation of Mexico in the last decade was therefore very much welcomed as it showed the possible developments in the future in this region if nothing is done.
b) Legal and Institutional Framework in the Countries of the Region
Most countries have put in place the legal and institutional framework to combat drug trafficking and money laundering, Bosnia and Herzegovina (the draft law has still not been adopted) and Yugoslavia being the two main exceptions. Several countries have been adopting new legislation or revising legislation in place during the last two years (Romania, Poland, Croatia, and Czech Republic). In some of the countries the new institutions are just starting to function.
In some of the countries there seems to remain difficulties to co-ordinate work between different ministries/institutions (Customs, Police etc.).
In the field of mutual legal assistance (MLA), extradition, controlled delivery and undercover operations not all countries have adopted legislation but most participants agreed that the difficulties encountered were not due to lack of legislation (apart from in the case of undercover operations).
Many requests were sent and received mostly with other European countries generally under the relevant Council of Europe Treaties. In countries like Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia the figures were very important and drug related cases represented an important part of all request received or sent (30%). The meeting allowed a further explanation of the possibilities given by the relevant articles of the 1988 Convention (art. 5, 6, 7, and 11) although many of these countries rely on regional agreements to carry out requests for judicial cooperation.
c) Results and Perspectives
As stated before the main results of the meeting were: 1) the establishment of personal links between the key-people responsible for judicial cooperation in the region; 2) the interest shown for the development of a multi-disciplinary approach of drug issues; 3) the great interest shown by participants in applying the provisions of the 1988 Convention in relation to judicial cooperation.
The meeting also resulted in the adoption of a set of recommendations to legally and practically improve the implementation of judicial and law-enforcement cooperation. These were discussed and drafted during the last two sessions of the meeting when the participants were divided into working groups, first by subject (mutual legal assistance, extradition, controlled delivery and undercover operations) and then by profession (judges, prosecutors, law-enforcement and other experts) (see hereinafter).
I. RECOMMENDATIONS BY PROFESSIONAL GROUP
The group of experts from the different ministries recommended to:
- Develop and strengthen regional co-operation on a regular basis (every 1 or 2 years).
- Provide at the national level training programs for criminal justice personnel (judges, prosecutors) dealing with international cooperation in criminal matters.
- Carry out a comparative research focusing on drug control strategies at the legal level and the implementation of art.5 of the 1988 Convention.
- Introduce the possibility in the legislation to use a part of assets confiscated to finance drug-related programmes and, if possible, create a regional fund.
- Provide for training for forensic laboratory staff to update the knowledge and exchange of experience. Organise regional meetings for heads of national forensic laboratories.
The group of judges recommended to:
- Adopt regional agreements under article 7, 1988 Convention on court-to-court co-operation without the involvement of higher levels (Scandinavian model).
- Convene regular regional meetings and seminars for the exchange of experience on drug-trafficking, money-laundering and international co-operation.
The group of prosecutors recommended to:
- Establish, in each country, if applicable, a legal basis to create a judicial police. 2. Include liaison magistrates in all organised crime units at the national level. 3. Establish in each country international joint teams of prosecutors dealing with drug-trafficking and organised crime.
D. LAW-ENFORCEMENT PERSONNEL
The group of police and customs officials recommended to:
- Accelerate in all countries of the region, the establishment of National Contact Points (NCP) for international co-operation of law enforcement agencies to carry out controlled deliveries and undercover operations. 2. NCP's should keep an updated manual containing national legal procedures, authorised services in charge and contact addresses (phone, fax, e-mail) for the implementation of controlled deliveries and undercover operations. 3. Authorise the existing regional co-operation structures to collect all national data (national legal procedures, authorised services in charge and contact details) on controlled deliveries and undercover operations in order to prepare a regional manual.
II. RECOMMENDATIONS BY SUBJECT
In the area of confiscation the participants recommended to:
- Amend the legislation of the countries of the region, as appropriate; to revert the onus of the burden of proof concerning the property of a person already sentenced for an organise crime or drug trafficking offence (paragraph 7, article 3).
- Establish the possibility of imposing financial sanctions if confiscation of the assets is not possible.(French model).
- Enable the seizure and confiscation of assets from third parties, except in case of bona fide.
- Relevant judges and prosecutors should be trained in economic thinking of organised crime.
- Include in each organised crime unit, as appropriate, an expert in freezing and confiscation issues.
- If compatible with the constitutional principles, allot confiscated assets to drug programs.
In the area of extradition the participants recommended to:
- Amend legislation in the countries in the region, as appropriate, to provide for simplified extradition in case of consent of offender.
- Amend legislation to provide the Ministry of Justice and/or other concerned bodies with the administrative power to grant safe conduct guarantee for transit of extradited offenders.
- Introduce the policy of applying the longest permitted time limit (40 days) for submission of formal requests of extradition before releasing the suspect.
- Introduce the policy of attaching the official translation of all documents in the language of the requested country to the formal request of extradition.
- Institute liaison officers/contact persons to facilitate extradition procedures between countries of the region.
C. MUTUAL LEGAL ASSISTANCE
In the area of mutual legal assistance the participants recommended to:
- Improve national law introducing the tools and possibilities for direct exchange of information between judges and public prosecutors.
- Provide for technical support and training to relevant judges and public prosecutors.
- Improve measures to protect confidential data and information.
Harmonise legal procedures in relation to mutual legal assistance in the countries involved.
- Establish mutual legal assistance liaison magistrates in each country.
D. CONTROLLED DELIVERY
In the area of controlled deliveries the participants recommended to:
- Introduce the provisions of article 11 of the 1988 UN Convention into national legislation, when applicable.
- Ensure co-ordination of information on controlled deliveries on the national/regional level by the establishment of liaison officers.