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Cecilia Malmström

Member of the European Commission responsible for Home Affairs

The external dimension of EU-police cooperation in West African countries – towards global and integrated international policing

Interpol/ Belgian Presidency Symposium

Brussels, Bibliothèque Solvay, 30 September 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very grateful to the Belgian Presidency and Interpol for inviting me to address this symposium. The issues which will be discussed today are of acute concern to citizens of the EU as well as West Africa.

I will focus today on three points:

  • the importance of international police cooperation as I see it from my perspective as Commissioner responsible for the internal security of the EU,

  • the actions already taken by the EU to support international police cooperation, which could serve as possible food for thought and – more briefly -

  • what may be needed to further strengthen international police cooperation in the future between the EU and the region of Western Africa.

So, first, a few comments on the importance of international police cooperation with Western Africa.

It is often said, but really cannot be stressed too strongly, that security within the EU depends on the security of our partner countries. The kidnapping this month in Niger of, among others, five French nationals is the latest stark reminder of this fact. Terrorism and other forms of serious crime inevitably affect the security and daily lives of both EU and African citizens.

The European Security Strategy which since 2003 has guided the policy of the EU in this area, rightly therefore places great emphasis on the link between internal and external security. The EU’s Strategy on drugs for 2005-2012 1highlights the global character of the drug problem and the need for regional, international and multilateral approaches. As Commissioner for Home Affairs, I am now in the process of developing a new action-oriented EU Internal Security Strategy – and that too will recognise that link and call for full coordination between the actions we take internally in the EU and cooperation with our partner countries.

A second common observation is that security and economic development are closely linked. It is a sad fact that most of the countries least likely to achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals are in the midst of – or emerging from – conflicts, located in regions plagued by crime and violence. Without peace, and respect for the rule of law, investment and economic conditions are unlikely to improve – creating further instability and crime.

Western Africa is no exception. A complex set of circumstances have hampered economic development and led to a rise in insecurity, violent radicalisation and crimes such as trafficking in human beings, and smuggling of drugs, weapons, counterfeit goods and stolen vehicles. These crime flows do not only cause misery in Western Africa, they have a direct impact on the streets of Europe.

The law enforcement experts present here today know the situation on the ground better than I. But it is disturbing to read in the most recent UNODC report2 that at least one billion dollars' worth of cocaine is trafficked through Western Africa each year, reaching the EU over the sea and by air.

Law enforcement authorities in Western Africa make great efforts to fight crime but as you know they work in often difficult circumstances. Well organised crime networks exploit the large geographical distances, the long borders which are difficult to patrol effectively, and they take advantage of the inevitably limited human and technical resources that law enforcement authorities have. In the South Sahel countries, for example, there are increasing risks of links between well resourced and highly organised Latin American drug cartels and terrorist organisations.

Police cooperation between our regions is therefore vital. It will not create security or economic development on its own. But by increasing operational cooperation with both EU and international actors, and by strengthening the capacity of Western African police, it should be possible to track down, disrupt, and hopefully dismantle, the criminal and terrorist networks causing instability and crime.

Let me now turn to what has already been achieved.

Successful international police cooperation requires effective coordination of donors - whether they be individual states in Europe or elsewhere, the EU and other organisations. This will channel support and funding to where it is most needed, and support local partners in the long term - while fully respecting their ownership of aid programmes.

This is fully recognised in the EU: the EU-Africa Joint Strategy and Action Plan of December 2007 lays down a framework to ensure consistency at both political and operational level of actions to combat organised crime and terrorism. On drugs, the European pact to combat international drug trafficking, which was adopted by the Council of Ministers of the EU this summer3 provides a methodology for more coordinated police cooperation between EU Member States, Interpol and UNODC.

More concretely, let me mention a few examples of police cooperation projects supported by the Commission in West Africa.

We are currently preparing, with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a programme of 16M€ under the 10th European Development Fund to support implementation of the drug action plan adopted by ECOWAS States in Praia in December 2008. That plan was given fresh impetus this year in the Dakar Declaration by a number of Western African countries alongside the Spanish and the French ministers of interior. This initiative focuses on building the capacity of the ECOWAS Secretariat General and its member states in the areas of drug monitoring, demand and supply reduction. And it also supports the work of the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA).4

One of the largest support programmes, known as the comprehensive 'cocaine route' programme under the EU Instrument for Stability, devotes 22M€ to strengthening regional anti-trafficking capacities in law enforcement and the judiciary, with a focus on selected airports, seaports and anti-drug offices. And the so-called Aircop programme aims to strengthen the ability of eight local airports in the region to detect EU-bound drug couriers. Implemented jointly with the UNODC, the World Customs Organisation and Interpol, these programmes should deliver training to Western African police.

Moreover, they should secure real time communication between the police and law enforcement actors in Western Africa and the EU, and contribute to increased use of joint operations and investigation. Furthermore, specific anti-drug and organised crime projects are being implemented in Nigeria, Guinea Bissau, Ghana, Niger and Cap Verde.

The Commission is financing a 6.5M€ programme in Western Africa for tackling organised crime. This is done through targeted projects for strengthening the fight against trafficking by sea (SEACOP) and air (AIRCOP). We are also developing projects combating financial crime. A 5.3M€ security and development project will help tackle 'partnerships of convenience' between local banditry, organised crime and terrorism in the Sahel region. It is crucial for the future security in West Africa that development policy goes hand in hand with operational activities and support for infrastructure.

Apart from these general programmes, the EU institutions have supported several activities developed jointly by EU Member States and international organisations to improve operational coordination in West Africa.

In line with the European pact to combat international drug trafficking, EU Member States have increased the number of Liaison Officers in West Africa. This has improved coordination with West African police, and between EU Member States through information exchange platforms in Dakar and Accra.

Another good example is the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre Narcotics, established in Lisbon in 2008, which has helped seize almost 45 tons of drugs trafficked by sea to the EU.

A lot is already being done in the region, but more is needed! And this brings me to my final, brief, comments on how we could strengthen EU-West Africa police cooperation yet further.

I see opportunities, and challenges, both in each of the countries in the West African region and on the EU level.

The experience of EU internal security suggests that West African countries could draw substantial benefits from closer coordination and information exchange between agencies – police, immigrations and customs for example – both within and across national borders. Training and continuity of staff is of key importance if such coordination is to work in practice. In parallel, cooperation with authorities in Latin America and Caribbean authorities should be stepped up.

I do believe that countries with which the EU shares common security concerns, especially West Africa, should be given priority in terms of international security cooperation. Security expertise - police officers, border guards, customs officials, judges and prosecutors - should be deployed to these countries to maximise the impact of EU policies and programmes on the ground and thereby to contribute to the stability of the region.

More generally, the creation of the new European External Action Service provides an opportunity for the EU to integrate security in all our strategic partnerships and political dialogues.

Ladies and gentlemen, the need for more robust and effective action to fight terrorism and crime in Western Africa is clear. I hope that this symposium will help clarify how best to meet that need, and I look forward to reading the conclusions of today’s debate.

1 :

Adopted by the Council in November 2004.

2 :

UNODC, Transnational trafficking and the rule of law in West Africa July 2009.

3 :

See also and

4 :

GIABA was set up by ECOWAS in 2000 as a specialised institution for the prevention and control of money laundering and terrorist financing in West Africa.

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