Most of SEE countries are not in risk of money laundering and terrorist financing

Published by the Basel Institute on Governance since 2012, the Basel AML Index is an independent annual ranking that assesses the risk of money laundering and terrorist financing around the world. It measures the risk using data from publicly available sources such as the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Transparency International, the World Bank and the World Economic Forum.

A total of 15 indicators of countries’ adherence to anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism regulations, levels of corruption, financial standards, political disclosure and the rule of law are aggregated into one overall risk score. By combining these data sources, the overall risk score represents a holistic assessment addressing structural as well as functional elements of the country’s resilience.

The scores are aggregated as a composite index using a qualitative and expert-based assessment in order to form the final country ranking. They should be read in conjunction with the analysis and descriptions of the methodology and indicators in the rest of the report. Without this background, the results may easily be misunderstood or misrepresented, and this may have unwanted consequences for any policy or compliance decision that is taken as a result.

The Basel AML Index does not measure the actual amount of money laundering or terrorist financing activity, but rather is designed to assess the risk of such activity. The risk is understood as a broad risk area in relation to a country’s vulnerability to money laundering and terrorist financing and its capacities to counter it.

The Basel AML Index ranks countries based on their overall scores, capturing the complex global nature of risks and providing useful data for comparative purposes. However, the primary objective is not to rank countries superficially in comparison with each other, but to provide an overall picture of different countries’ risk levels and serve as a solid basis for examining progress over time.

More countries showed slight improvements in their risk scores in 2019 than last year, but there have been no substantial changes indicating significant progress in tackling money laundering and terrorist financing. This confirms the general trend visible over the eight years since the Basel AML Index was first calculated: most countries are slow to improve their resilience against these risks. Improvements are minor – between 2018 and 2019, 27% of countries listed in the Public Edition (34/125) improved their scores by more than 0.1 point.

60% of countries in the 2019 Public Edition ranking (74/125) have a risk score of 5.0 or above and can be loosely classified as having a significant risk. This compares with 64% in 2018. The mean average level of risk, though marginally better than 2018, remains above this (5.39 in 2019 compared to 5.63 in 2018).

Most countries of South East Europe fall into the category of countries with low risk. North Macedonia holds high 3rd place with risk of only 3,22, followed by 5th Bulgaria with 3,51, 6th Slovenia, 7th Croatia and 10th Montenegro with 3,7, 3,82 and 3,94. Greece with 4,56 and Romania with 4,76 experience moderate risk, while the countries with significant risk of money laundering and terrorist financing include Bosnia Herzegovina with 4,76, Albania with 6, Turkey with 6,19 and Serbia with 6,33 which is the highest risk of all countries of Europe and Central Asia!

2019 Fiscal Transparency Report

The U.S. Department of State presented their 2019 Fiscal Transparency Report. This report describes the minimum requirements of fiscal transparency developed, updated, and strengthened by the Department in consultation with other relevant federal agencies. For the purpose of this report, the minimum requirements of fiscal transparency include having key budget documents that are publicly available, substantially complete, and generally reliable.

Fiscal transparency fosters greater government accountability by providing a window into government budgets for citizens, helping citizens hold their leadership accountable and facilitating better-informed public debate.

The report includes a description of how governments fell short of the minimum requirements.  It outlines any significant progress being made to disclose publicly national budget documentation, contracts and licenses.  It also provides specific recommendations of short- and long-term steps governments should take to improve fiscal transparency.  Finally, the report outlines the process the Department followed in completing the assessments and describes how U.S. foreign assistance resources have been used to support fiscal transparency.

The Department concluded that, of the 140 governments evaluated pursuant to the Act plus Equatorial Guinea, 67 did not meet the minimum requirements of fiscal transparency.  Of these 67, however, 13 governments made significant progress toward meeting the minimum requirements of fiscal transparency. Among those who meet the minimum requirements are all South East European countries!

To read more about the Report, follow this link>>>

Support. Don’t Punish activities in 2019

Support. Don’t Punish is a global grassroots-centred initiative in support of harm reduction and drug policies that prioritise public health and human rights. The campaign seeks to put harm reduction on the political agenda by strengthening the mobilisation capacity of affected communities and their allies, opening dialogue with policy makers, and raising awareness among the media and the public.

The Drug Policy Network South East Europe coordinates activities of the campaign in South East Europe around the Global Day of Action 26 June – which is also the United Nations’ International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.

The campaign 2019 shall have in South East Europe:

  • 9 countries
  • 11 cities
  • 20+ organisations
  • 40+ activities
  • 200+ volunteers
  • 000+ citizens informed
  • Various social networks

Organisations around the region will organise raising awareness events, lectures and workshops, creating and promoting guidelines on human rights, banner and pictures campaigns, producing videos, photo exhibitions, disseminating promotional materials, meetings with the local authorities, public debates and press conferences, pub quizzes, collecting and distributing personal hygiene items for women, marches on city centres, showing movies and documentaries, taking photos in a selfie cab, and much more.

For the launch of the Global Day of Action, DPNSEE will organise “Kick-off event” to start the campaign in South East Europe. The event will be held in the EU Info Centre in Belgrade, Kralja Milana 7, on 19 June 2019 at 10h.

To find out what is planned in your city or country, follow this link>>>

To see more about the campaign worldwide, follow this link>>>

European Union 2018 Enlargement Country Reports

Traditionally, the European Commission adopted its annual assessment of the implementation of reforms in the Western Balkan partners and Turkey, together with recommendations on the next steps for those countries, and published its annual country reports.

Accession negotiations have been opened with candidate countries Montenegro (2012), Serbia (2014), and Turkey (2005). North Macedonia is a candidate country since 2005 and Albania since 2014. Bosnia and Herzegovina (application to join the EU submitted in February 2016) and Kosovo* (Stabilisation and Association Agreement entered into force in April 2016) are potential candidates.

The Commission’s Western Balkans Strategy of February 2018 generated a renewed engagement by the EU and its Member States and created new momentum across the region. One year on, the partner countries have made concrete progress and demonstrated commitment to the European perspective, even if the overall uptake of reforms varies.

The Commission estimated that Albania and North Macedonia have embraced the opportunity and delivered on reforms, in particular in the areas identified as crucial by the Council in June 2018. Even though, same like last year, the Commission recommended that the Council opens accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia, the Council still haven’t made such move.

The Commission also issued today its Opinion on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s application for membership of the European Union, together with an analytical report that reviews, for the first time, the situation in the country against all standards applicable to EU Member States. The Commission considers that negotiations for accession should be opened once Bosnia and Herzegovina has achieved the necessary degree of compliance with the membership criteria and in particular the political criteria requiring stability of institutions, guaranteeing notably democracy and rule of law.

DPNSEE extracted segments related to drugs from each of the country reports and packed them in one document. Same like in 2018, it is a pity to see that, almost exclusively, except some references to drug abuse prevention and harm reduction in Chapter 28: Consumer and health protection, the reports deal only with law enforcement related to drugs.

The document we prepared is downloadable following this link>>>

Full versions of the Commission’s documents are available following this link>>>

Youth Studies South East Europe

The Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) published reports on the experiences and aspirations of youth in Southeast Europe. The FES carried out a representative region-wide survey on a sample of more than 10.000 young people aged 14 – 29 from ten countries in Southeast Europe in early 2018.

“FES Youth Studies Southeast Europe 2018/2019” is an international youth research project carried out simultaneously in ten countries in Southeast Europe: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo*, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia. The main objective of the surveys has been to identify, describe and analyse attitudes of young people and patterns of behaviour in contemporary society.

A broad range of issues were addressed, including young peoples’ experiences and aspirations in different realms of life, such as education, employment, political participation, family relationships, leisure and use of information and communications technology, but also their values, attitudes and beliefs.

Findings are presented in ten national and one regional study and its accompanying policy papers, which have been published in both English and the respective national languages.

The most important results are grouped under headlines:

  • A wish to belong to Europe
  • Migration and mobility do not have to be zero-sum
  • Fighting corruption as a crime, not as a concept
  • Employment discourse shifting towards the quality of work
  • A different kind of ‘political’…
  • …which has to do with ‘the social’
  • Give youth a say in Europeanisation

To download the regional study and its accompanying policy papers following this link>>>

You can read the national studies at this webpage.

A moderate improvement in on the international drug trade in South East Europe

The 2019 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) is an annual report by the Department of State to Congress prepared in accordance with the Foreign Assistance Act. It describes the efforts of key countries to attack all aspects of the international drug trade in Calendar Year 2018.

Volume I covers drug and chemical control activities. Volume II covers money laundering and financial crimes.

For the third year in row, the report classifies four countries of South East Europe as “major money laundering countries” – those whose financial institutions engage in currency transactions involving significant amounts of proceeds from international narcotics trafficking.

The report notes improvement, but these countries remained on this non-popular list. Here are the resumes of the situation.

The Government of Albania made no significant progress toward thwarting money laundering and financial crimes in 2018. Albania remains vulnerable to money laundering due to corruption, growing organized crime networks, and weak legal and government institutions. The country has a large cash economy and informal sector, with significant money inflows from abroad in the form of remittances. Major proceeds-generating crimes in Albania include drug trafficking, tax evasion, and smuggling. Other significant predicates include counterfeiting, arms smuggling, and human trafficking. Smuggling is facilitated by weak border controls and customs enforcement. Albania serves as a base of operations for organized crime organizations operating in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and South America. Recent justice reforms, vetting of judges and prosecutors for corruption and ties to organized crime, and the creation of a police task force targeting organized crime activities have created a positive trajectory for Albania to address money laundering and financial crimes. These efforts, however, are still challenged by pervasive corruption.

Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) has a primarily cash-based economy and is not an international or regional financial center. BiH is in the middle of the Balkans and has open borders with Croatia, Serbia, and Montenegro. A Visa Liberalization Agreement with the EU enables easy transit from Eastern Europe and the Balkans region to countries in Western Europe. BiH is a market and transit point for smuggled commodities, including cigarettes, firearms, counterfeit goods, lumber, and fuel oil.

BiH recently has made substantial progress, not only strengthening its AML regime, but harmonizing its laws across its numerous legal systems, including laws related to money laundering and asset forfeiture. BiH has a complex legal and regulatory framework with criminal codes and financial sector laws at the state and entity levels (Federation of BiH (FBiH) and Republika Srpska (RS)), and in the Brčko District (BD).

BiH completed its National Risk Assessment of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing in the Period 2018-2022 (NRA) in September 2018, which identifies notaries and real estate agencies as the highest-risk sectors.

In 2018, Serbia made a high-level political commitment to address noted deficiencies and has subsequently made significant progress in bringing its AML regime in line with international standards, resulting in an increased number of related investigations and convictions. With assistance from donors, Serbia updated its national risk assessment (NRA) to better identify current threats or crimes associated with money laundering and methods used to launder money and finance terrorism.

Turkey is an important regional financial center, particularly for Central Asia and the Caucasus, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. Turkey’s rapid economic growth over the past 15 years combined with its commercial relationships and geographical proximity to areas experiencing political turbulence, such as Iraq, Syria, and Crimea, make Turkey vulnerable to money laundering risks. It continues to be a major transit route for Southwest Asian opiates moving to Europe. In addition to narcotics trafficking, other significant sources of laundered funds include smuggling, invoice fraud, tax evasion, and to a lesser extent, counterfeit goods, forgery, highway robbery, and kidnapping. Recent conflicts on the southern border of Turkey have, to a small extent, increased the risks for additional sources of money laundering. In 2018, Turkey implemented new regulations on the registration and supervision of foreign exchange houses, passed a tax amnesty law, and the government underwent a restructuring, resulting in new ministries.

To read the 2019 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report follow this link>>>>

Nova stranka first to sign “Declaration on Sustainable National Response to HIV”

Nova stranka  is the first political party in Serbia which signed the Declaration for sustainable national response to HIV, proposed by the Group for Analysis of Public Policies (GAJP) as part of their project Political support to the harm reduction programmes. Aim of this project is to invite all political parties in Serbia to sign the Declaration that will oblige them to support harm reduction programmes and their financing from budgetary sources in their future work and participation in legislative and executive bodies.

The President of the Council of the Nova stranka, Aris Movsesian said that it is normal for the Nova stranka, as well as all other political parties, to sign this declaration.  Nova stranka is committed to joining the European Union, and the last year’s European Commission report calls for regulating the treatment of HIV patients, specifically in Chapter 28 where such measures are proposed. Nova stranka also emphasises in point 8 of their Action Plan the problem of relations with vulnerable groups of citizens.

Movsesian invited other political parties to follow our example and make such a civilization step.”

The declaration is developed in scope of the Budget Advocacy and Monitoring in South East Europe project. The project is managed by DPNSEE, and coordinated in Serbia by the Association Prevent.

To read the news from the signing of the declaration in Serbian follow this link>>>.

The South East Europe pre-Conference Meeting held in Bucharest

With the support from the Open Society Foundations, the Drug Policy Network South East Europe organised the South East Europe Meeting on 20 November in Bucharest, Romania, prior to the 4th European Harm Reduction Conference. The event aimed to get together activists working on harm reduction services, exchange experiences and promising ideas for the future, meet with international partners and discuss future opportunities for collaboration. 36 representatives of harm reduction organisations and institutions from countries of the region and from various international organisations attended this meeting: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Greece, Kosovo*, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia.

Nebojša Đurasović, Vice-President of the DPNSEE Board opened the Meeting with welcome note and agenda review and announced first session Where is South East Europe now? Sofia Galinaki from Diogenis, the member of the IDPC Members’ Advisory Council, moderated this session. She presented the results of the Harm Reduction Survey. Dragoş Roşca, Romanian Harm Reduction Network, continued this session and spoke about current situation in Romania, Denis Dadajić, from Margina, explained situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Silvana Naumova from HOPS, presented current situation in Macedonia.

Facilitating the second session What do we actually do?, DPNSEE Executive Director Milutin Milošević, reminded on some dilemmas, including those of quality in the times of transition and integrated services for all vs. those specific for key sub-populations. Ivica Cekovski from HOPS spoke about the concept of quality in Macedonia. The session continued with Dr Vera Kerleta-Tuzović, Agency for Healthcare Quality and Accreditation in FBiH who presented accreditation of drop-in centres Bosnia and Herzegovina and session was closed with Tomaž Koren, from Alliance of NGOs for Drugs and Addictions, from Slovenia, who talked about quality of services in Slovenia, with special view on harm reduction in nightlife and festival settings.

The pre-conference meeting continued with third session that was moderated by Jelena Čolaković, from the DPNSEE member organisation Juventas, Montenegro. The speakers crossed over specific topic Where do we go from here? and was centred around opportunities for collaboration, including a regional program on sustainability supported by the Global Fund. Vladan Golubovic, from Chairman sent a presentation about the Regional Coordinating Mechanism. Tetyana Deshko, from Alliance for Public Health presented upcoming Global Fund supported regional project “Sustainability of services for key populations in Eastern Europe and Central Asia region”. Then, Mišo Pejković from Cazas spoke about experiences in cooperation in the region. The session was closed by Amarildo Fecanji, from ERA, who talked about potential cooperation between the networks and organisations.

At the last session What else we need to talk about? Ganna Dovbakh from Eurasian Harm Reduction Association emphasized potentials for advocacy in the process of EU Enlargement on national level.

Closing the Meeting, Nebojša Đurasović thanked all for contributing to the Meeting which he found successful. He noted a very friendly and open atmosphere and hoped that the experiences and ideas presented will be a good basis for future cooperation and partnerships.

Photos: Snežana Šundić – Vardić and Sanja Đurasović

A tool presenting the situation in South East Europe

The Drug Policy Network South East Europe published the document  Addressing the acute funding crisis facing harm reduction services in South-East Europe with the aim to emphasize the acute funding crisis facing harm reduction services in Balkan states and South-East Europe, to influence the policies and actions of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria  and other donors. It is a complementary part of a larger body of work being done by a wide range of partners – including the Open Society Foundation and the International Drug Policy Consortium – to document the consequences of changes in donor eligibility policies, and to urgently try and influence donor policy away from a withdrawal from middle-income countries in South East Europe.

DPNSEE worked with their partners and members across the region to gather case studies of Opioid Substitution Therapy stock-outs or shortages, service closures or reductions in coverage, and other critical issues experienced by civil society partners in South East Europe related to transitions away from Global Fund support. Through interviews with key stakeholders and desk-based research, DPNSEE gathered information, experiences, feedback and recommendations from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo*, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia.

The material was collected in November – December 2017. Since then, it was used only internally. The document was published and shared with the participants of the South East Europe pre-Conference meeting, held in November 2018 in Bucharest, Romania.

Click here to download the document >>>

Life on the Margins

The biggest LGBTI survey ever conducted in the Western Balkans region is finally out and they reveal a collective experience of discrimination, harassment, exclusion and violence. The report analyses the responses of more than 2.300 LGBTI persons across seven countries in the Western Balkans region: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia and Montenegro as well as two European Union member states Croatia and Slovenia. This is the largest data set ever collected on LGBTI rights in our region.

The report “Life on the Margins: Survey Results of the Experience of LGBTI people in South Eastern Europe” was published by the World Bank in partnership with IPSOS Strategic Marketing, ERA – LGBTI Equal Rights Association for the Western Balkans and Turkey, and the Williams Institute at UCLA.

The collective experiences of LGBTI people in the countries surveyed paint a distressing picture of the harmful effects of discrimination, harassment, exclusion and violence. One-third (32%) of all respondents (and 54% of transgender respondents) report having been victims of physical violence in the past five years. Of those cases of violence, only 17% have been reported to the police and action was taken against the perpetrator in only 16% of the most serious cases of violence reported to the police. Discrimination, is even more widespread, considering that 92% of respondents report that discrimination based on sexual orientation is common, 90% because a person is transgender and 67% because a person is intersex.

Among the most important recommendations of this reports are to:

  • Increase and expand the evidence base: researchers, advocates and policymakers should delve further into the available data to inform interventions in each country.
  • The LGBTI data gap remains large, and further research and data collection is necessary to better understand the lived experience of LGBTI people and the challenges they face.
  • Work on awareness raising needs to continue: Sensitization and capacity building programs for public servants should be expanded and strengthened. More needs to be done to increase the rights awareness of LGBTI people. The capacities of LGBTI organizations across the region should be strengthened.
  • A lot more work needs to be done to close the implementation gap: Governments should use the survey findings to identify implementation gaps related to the EU accession process, especially for Chapter 23: judiciary and fundamental rights and chapter 24: justice, freedom and security.
  • Governments should improve the criminal justice response to violence against LGBTI people;
  • Safe spaces should be created for LGBTI persons where they can receive services and support.

To read full report follow this link>>>>