Phare project on fighting economic crime declared success

European Union's Phare programme

This month sees the completion of a project funded by the European Union's Phare programme, on fighting economic crime in the Czech Republic. The Czech police's Unit for Combating Corruption and Major Economic Crime was responsible for the project, the funding for which is provided to future EU member states. Alena Skodova has more:

European Union's Phare programme
The project included technical support and development of know-how, especially in the most complicated areas of combating, investigating and prosecuting serious economic crime. Some 70 police specialists and state prosecutors participated in study and training visits to special units in Germany, the United Kingdom and Italy, as the project was based on a twinning principle. Ruud van Enk from the European Commission explained to me how the twinning partners were chosen.

"The twinning partners are chosen in a way that I could best call as a call for proposals, and proposals projects are sent to all member state together with the overall programme from which they are financed. The member states can then submit bids, the delegation organises a week where all member states present their proposals to the Czech side and the Czech side then chooses the one it likes best."

According to Ralf Michelfelder from the Baden-Wurtenberg Police force, Germany sent 40 experts who trained more than 400 Czech police officers and 25 state prosecutors.

"They built up friendships with each other so it's very easy for them nowadays to have very close contacts to support the investigation from one side to the other side. It is my belief that efficient cross-border cooperation can only be done in an easy, direct and fast way, and to guarantee that way of investigation you have to know somebody from the other side of the border, and must not have only rules and treaties - you have to fill up the treaties with life. You have to know the face behind the phone on the other side, and you have to know that you can rely on the man on the other side to support your investigation. That I think was the biggest effort behind this project."

The Czech officers say that the project was immensely successful, and its goals were almost completely fulfilled. But Mr. Van Enk says it will be some time before the project produces real changes in how the Czech police treats serious economic crime:

"The results will be officially known at the end of next month, and will be put down in what we call a final report. The final report will list a number of benchmarks, which are measures against which we can measure progress, so we take the situation as it was and we measure it against the results of the project. The overall implementation of the project and our continuous monitoring of the project suggest that it will be successful, and that knowledge level increase will be translated into and increased level of detection of economic crime and successful prosecution, but obviously these things will only be known within the next few years, not months."

The European Commission's Ruud van Enk, ending that report by Alena Skodova.