LYON, France – Delegates from the Balkans region visited the INTERPOL General Secretariat headquarters to discuss future steps towards strengthening environmental security in the region and to learn about INTERPOL’s tools and services.
The visitors were national representatives of the Themis Network, a regional cooperation initiative among environmental law enforcement units in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia which is financed by the Austrian Development Cooperation. The network seeks to increase administrative capacities to tackle environmental crime and enhance regional dialogue and cooperation.
During the two-day visit (28 and 29 January), the delegates discussed the need to further integrate police into environmental protection and to ensure that officers and prosecutors are knowledgeable on environmental crimes. Dedicated environmental police units or cooperative units involving other departments, such as financial crime, were identified as potential mechanisms to support enforcement of environmental laws.
The delegates also expressed interest in implementing National Environmental Security Task Forces (NESTs) throughout the region to assist in identifying environmental threats and developing coordinated responses. INTERPOL encourages countries to establish NESTs in order to integrate the relevant agencies involved in combating environmental crimes, including environment agencies, police, customs and prosecutors.
Bruno Mesquita, a representative of the Themis Secretariat and a legal expert for the Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe, praised the ongoing cooperation between INTERPOL and the Themis Network.
“Following productive collaboration on several past events, we anticipate further opportunities to work together to support environmental enforcement in this region at the national level, now that the participants have gained first-hand knowledge of INTERPOL and the NEST concept,” he said.
Specific challenges to environmental security in the region were also examined, such as the illegal hunting and trade of wild species, the illegal shipment of waste – including electronic and hazardous waste – and illegal fishing.