19th Regional Meeting of the South East Europe Firearms Experts Network

Senior police investigators, customs officials, prosecutors, ballistic experts, representatives of border police from six Western Balkan jurisdictions, Moldova and Ukrane, as well as representatives of relevant regional and international organisations, gathered in Budva, Montenegro on 7-8 November for the 19th Regional Meeting of the South East Europe Firearms Experts Network (SEEFEN).

The SEEFEN meetings are organised biannually by SEESAC and regularly focus on information sharing and knowledge exchange on lessons learned, challenges faced, new modus operandi, and ways forward in combatting firearm and explosives trafficking in and out of South East Europe.

During the meeting, delegations presented updates and exchanged the newest cases related to firearms crimes and examples of cooperation between investigators, ballistics experts, and prosecutors.

Apart from the presentation of the SEESAC ongoing and planned activities in support of fight Against the Illegal Possession, Misuse, and Trafficking of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) in the Western Balkans and the process of the revision of the Roadmap, representatives from Frontex presented the ongoing Project:” EU Regional Support to Strengthen Border Security Capacities in the Western Balkans”,  which main goal is to strengthen the capacity of the Western Balkans' partners in their migration management efforts and fight against the smuggling of firearms.

Furthermore, the participants explored the phenomenon and challenges associated with addressing the illicit trafficking of firearms, their parts and components, ammunition, and other illicit goods transported via postal parcels and express courier shipments, as well as positive developments in the Western Balkans through the UNODC presentation on this subject.

Representatives from the Swedish Police elaborated on what is needed to implement preventive investigations and got into more detail on the principle of demand and supply based on a case study of demand for firearms in Sweden, particularly concerning weapons, ammunition and hand grenades originating from the Western Balkans.

In light of the upcoming Joint Action Days 2023, EMPACT presented the initial findings of the Joint Intelligence phase and the use of the intelligence collection strategy all jurisdictions took part in.

Participants also discussed the way forward in the investigation of blank firing weapons that are seen as an attractive alternative to lethal, less accessible firearms, with an emphasis to challenges in their investigation, which reinforces their appeal among criminals.

In the area of advancing forensic capacities, meeting participants were presented with the results of the Project implemented by the UNDP Montenegro in the field of custody chain, crime scene investigations and forensic laboratory work.

A representative of the Dutch National Police brought the attention to the arising threat of 3D printing and fake guns and presented the newest developments in this regard.

The meeting was opened with welcoming remarks of Mr. Mladen Markovic, Head of the SALW Commission in Montenegro and Mr. Shenasi Iseni, Senior Political Advisor at the Regional Cooperation Council. They both congratulated representatives of the Western Balkan region on the continuous efforts and results in countering illicit possession, misuse and trafficking of small arms and light weapons and their active participation in SEEFEN network. They also outlined the importance of the SEEFEN network as a key regional format on the operational level in this area.

Established in 2013, SEEFEN meets to enhance the regional approach to combatting firearms trafficking through information exchange and knowledge sharing amongst experts in the region and beyond. SEEFEN is supported by the European Union through the EU Council Decision (CFSP) 2019/2111 in support of SEESAC disarmament and arms control activities in South East Europe.