In the last days of October, the Council of Ministers gave the final necessary approval for the implementation of the agreement on cooperation with Europol, a full six years since Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) signed this document.
But in order for the cooperation to begin, one more step is needed – the final establishment of a contact point with Europol on the premises of the Ministry of Security. This painstaking and slow multi-year process often irritated the European security partners, and due to the delays, BiH did not receive data from Europol’s databases, including data on the fight against terrorism.
In addition to the fact that the lack of information could leave the country vulnerable to terrorist and other security threats, cooperation with Europol is important in getting closer to the European Union (EU).
BiH is the only remaining country in the Western Balkans without a contact point for cooperation with Europol, which is why it never got full access to the products and services of this European police organization.
Unfulfilled promises to European partners
In 2016, BiH signed an Agreement on Operational and Strategic Cooperation with Europol, which entered into force a year later. But the agreement was never implemented because a common contact point for communication with Europol was not established. Those involved in the process had different ideas about where this point should physically exist, so its establishment took more than five years.
According to the signed agreement, the point for cooperation with Europol was to be located on the premises of the Ministry of Security in the building of the Council of Ministers in Sarajevo. However, the Directorate for Coordination of Police Bodies of BiH believes that cooperation with international police agencies should take place through the Directorate, an independent body under the Ministry of Security. They referred to the article of the Law on the Establishment of the Directorate, which foresees such cooperation. They also mentioned the already established Department for Cooperation with Europol, which they said has been cooperating with European partners through it since 2012.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Republika Srpska (RS) insisted that the point cannot remain in the Directorate and that it must be moved to the Ministry of Security. This ministry stopped cooperation and sending data to the Directorate.
In January 2021, the State Minister of Security, Selmo Cikotic, issued an instruction to move the contact point from the Directorate to the Ministry, but this has not happened to date.
Failure to establish a point for cooperation with Europol entails several serious consequences for BiH and its citizens.
Without a functional point of contact, authorities in BiH have significantly less access to sensitive information about criminals through the Europol Secure Information Exchange Network Application (SIENA).
This platform, developed in 2009, enables quick and easy exchange of information between more than 50 countries related to crime between Europol’s liaison officers, analysts, and experts of member states, and third parties with which Europol has cooperation agreements, Detektor reports.