2nd Regional Coordination Meeting of Asset Recovery Technical Assistance Providers in the Western Balkans

Today, the AIRE Center and the RAI Secretariat, with the support of the United Kingdom Government, hosted the 2nd regional meeting with representatives of leading projects in the field of confiscation of illegally acquired assets in the Western Balkans.

The meeting is a part of the regional coordination initiative undertaken under the framework of the Regional Project: Combating Corruption in the Western Balkans: Strengthening regional cooperation in the field of asset recovery implemented by the AIRE Centre and the Regional Anti-Corruption Initiative, with the support of the United Kingdom Government.

More than 30 technical assistance providers in the field of asset recovery operating in the Western Balkans jurisdictions, as well as representatives of the European Commission – Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiation, recognized the importance of good coordination between donor community, beneficiaries, and implementing partners in ensuring the effectiveness of the programs and projects implemented in the region. At the meeting, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the Council of Europe, DG NEAR of European Commission, Center for International Legal Cooperation (CILC), the OSCE, and several European Union funded projects shared their experiences, as leading project implementors in this area.

Participants highlighted the results achieved in the reform processes. Still, they noted that all jurisdictions in the region continue to share challenges in applying new mechanisms introduced to fight against corruption and organized crime.

Biljana Braithwaite, Program Director of the AIRE Center for the Western Balkans underlined the need for a continued increase of inter-regional cooperation and facilitating exchange of good practice amongst practitioners, bearing in mind that the Western Balkans jurisdictions share similar problems in asset recovery activities.

“Regional cooperation is essential for the effective fight against corruption. RAI members from the Western Balkans and beyond, including Moldova and EU Member states Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania are committed to fighting corruption and organized crime in SEE together, as the best way forward”, emphasized Desislava Gotskova, Head of the RAI Secretariat.

At the meeting, Criminal Asset Recovery Advisor Jill Thomas shared an update on the Technical Assistance Projects overview in the Western Balkans. By mapping regional asset recovery projects against asset recovery thematic areas, in-line with international and regional asset recovery standards and best practices, gaps can be identified for further asset recovery support to Western Balkan jurisdictions. This will help avoid duplication of efforts and ensure a complementary approach by technical assistance providers.

Further support is needed to ministries of justice, especially international cooperation departments in negotiating with their counterparts to conclude bi-lateral, multi-lateral and regional asset sharing agreements. Law enforcement officers and prosecutors still report that international asset recovery cooperation remains one of the most challenging aspects of successful confiscation. Furthermore, more support is needed in order to ensure operational inter-agency cooperation.