The demand for illegal firearms coming from organized crime groups, violent extremists and individual violent actors influences the illegal supply of firearms across different routes of trafficking. In order to respond to crime effectively, Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) must adapt and improve their investigative means to the more sophisticated conditions of the firearms trafficking and apply special investigative techniques. Strengthening international police cooperation in the investigations on firearms trafficking crimes is crucial since this trafficking has a strong transnational component.
Project ECOFIT – Options for EnhanCing Operational instruments in the area of Firearms Trafficking addresses this issue. It is in line with the indications included in the EUROPOL’s multiannual policy cycle (2018-2021) for organized and serious international crime, the European Commission Action Plan 2015-2019 on firearms trafficking between the EU and the South-East Europe, and the strategic recommendations of SELEC’s Organized Crime Threat Assessment for Southeast Europe (2018).
Project ECOFIT aims to enhance operational cooperation between Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) in the fight against illicit trafficking in firearms in the 27 EU Member States (MSs) and 7 non-EU SELEC MSs (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey). It takes into consideration five main operational instruments used as indicators of international cooperation:
Mechanisms for Data Collection;
Mechanisms for Data Sharing;
National Focal Points;
Joint Criminal Investigations;
Controlled delivery procedures.
In particular, Project ECOFIT has 4 main objectives:
To identify the existing gaps across EU MSs and 7 non-EU SELEC MSs in relation to the five operational instruments
taking into account 5 selected instruments, regarded as indicators of operational cooperation;
To define policy objectives in order to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of the operational instruments;
To realize an Impact Assessment of available policy options that could achieve these results;
To propose recommendations to the EU and guidelines to LEAs for implementing the best policy option(s) identified.
In order to reach the objectives, Project ECOFIT will:
Map the use of the five operational instruments ( 1) Mechanisms for Data Collection; 2) Mechanisms for Data Sharing; 3) National Focal Points; 4) Joint Criminal Investigations; 5) Controlled delivery procedures) at national level through a survey;
Carry out a gap analysis of the five instruments;
Defining policy objectives (strategic and operational) and related policy options to fill the gaps. The policy options are: 1) no action (status quo); 2) non-legislative action; 3) legislative action; 4) combination of legislative and non-legislative actions;
Conduct an Impact Assessment of the policy options;
Proposing recommendations to EU and guidelines for Law Enforcement Agencies.
Project ECOFIT will benefit a wide range of stakeholders in the EU and beyond by:
Strengthening LEAs’ operational role;
Improving cooperation in investigations of trans-border firearms trafficking offences;
Supporting effective cross-border cooperation between judicial authorities and LEAs;
Ensuring coordination with bilateral, regional and multilateral actions and initiatives.
The beneficiaries of Project ECOFIT will be:
In the short-term: LEAs’ authorities of the 27 EU MSs and 7 non-EU SELEC MSs;
In the medium-term: UNODC, EUROPOL and other international institutions;
In the long-term: Policy makers of the 27 EU MSs.
Project ECOFIT will provide a better understanding of the operational cooperation instruments available to LEAs. Through the identification of best practices, Project ECOFIT will result in the formulation and proposal of recommendations that could be adopted at EU level to reduce, prevent and tackle ITF offenses more effectively.
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