Since the dissolution of Yugoslavia, various types of organized crime, such as human and drug trafficking, money laundering and economic crime have impeded Serbia's progress in the fields of rule of law and respect of human rights.
According to the Council of Europe's annual Situation Report on Organized Crime in South East Europe, the country continues to have very high rates of organized crime.
In order to fight organized crime head on, the OSCE Mission to Serbia has since 2004 dedicated itself to strengthening Serbia's legislative framework and developing the capacity of prosecutors and judges to deal with complex organized crime cases. One innovative way the Mission has been dealing with organized crime in Serbia has been by developing co-operative relations between prosecutors in Serbia and Montenegro and Italy's Anti-Mafia Directorate. As part of this, the Mission has organized numerous study visits, conferences and workshops involving both Italian and Serbian anti-Mafia prosecutors.
Serbia's former Special Prosecutor for Organized Crime, Slobodan Radovanovic, was instrumental in establishing co-operation between Serbia and Italy to tackle organized crime. In 2007 Radovanovic became Acting Republican Prosecutor and his post as the Special Prosecutor was taken over by Miljko Radisavljevic, ensuring that the bi-lateral co-operation would continue. In this interview, Radovanovic talks about his experiences and the role of the OSCE in establishing the organized crime-fighting co-operation between Serbia and Italy.
Could you explain how the co-operation with the Italian Anti-Mafia Directorate began?
The co-operation commenced soon after the establishment of Serbia's Special Prosecution, back in July 2002. We were fortunate that the OSCE Mission became involved in these activities and facilitated the initial contact with the Italian Special Anti-Mafia Prosecutor Pierluigi Vigna. The first expert visit from Italy included representatives from the Supreme Court and the Deputy Special Prosecutor, which underlines the significance of the event. A memorandum of understanding was signed between the Italian Anti-Mafia Directorate and the Serbian Special Prosecutor in 2004, highlighting the fact that huge efforts were made, especially from the Italian side, to make these meetings meaningful.
What was the OSCE's role in promoting this type of bilateral co-operation?
The fact that Serbia is not a member of the EU can be an obstacle. For this reason, the role of the OSCE can be seen as a bridge which will be welcomed until we are a full-fledged member of the EU. We have exceptionally good co-operation with the representatives of the OSCE, who included Serbia in the whole process of initiating ideas and following them up. In fighting organized crime, the bilateral and multilateral approaches are the only ones which give results in fighting serious crimes such as drug trafficking, counterfeiting and human trafficking.
In your opinion, how has Serbia's prosecution benefited from co-operation with the Italian Anti-Mafia Directorate?
Until the establishment of the Special Prosecutor, our work on the cases followed a very standard format and this methodology could not produce results in complex organized crime cases. It was therefore necessary to launch a new type of organization incorporating special investigative techniques. We did not have enough experience with all of these elements, and thus it was necessary to develop co-operation to obtain it. Nevertheless, there are still many issues where we have not developed sufficient expertise, which is why it is extremely important to continue this type of co-operation in the future.
What does this co-operation involve today?
Since the co-operation has been ongoing for some time, today we have reached a level that we consider to be a genuine partnership between ourselves. As Italy is a leading country in combating Mafia-style crime, this partnership means we are able to work on specific cases together.
What are the major differences between your former job as Special Prosecutor for Organized Crime and your current tasks and responsibilities?
In my former role as the Special Prosecutor, all activities were related to the first instance of prosecution of these crimes, which was the first battlefield, so to speak. My aim now in my current function is to enhance efficiency in the area of economic crime and corruption, with the goal of obtaining a modern Prosecution. It is also important for us to achieve our aim of harmonizing the organization with European standards.
Today, the Mission to Serbia continues to support the ongoing co-operative relationship between Serbian and Italian prosecutors. On 29 May this year it hosted a workshop on witness collaborators as a tool for tackling organized crime groups. Participants included Serbian judges and prosecutors dealing with organized crime and war crimes, witness protection commission members and law enforcement agents, as well as magistrates from the Italian Anti-Mafia Prosecution Service. Similar workshops and study visits will continue to be held throughout the year.