Measures aimed at combating corruption, enforcing border controls and enhancing cross-border co-operation are being constantly revised in the fight against the illegal tobacco trade operating across Romania’s borders with non-EU countries.
This was part of the reply by the EU Commission to a question posed by the Romanian member of the European Parliament, Daniel Buda.
In a preamble to his question, Buda said that the proceeds from the smuggling of Ukrainian cigarettes were very high; so smugglers were willing to try ever-more ingenious ways of bringing these products into Romania.
Some brought their cigarettes through the Halmeu Customs, showing boundless ingenuity in creating hiding places in car bodywork.
Some put the dual citizenship law, adopted by Hungary, to their use. When caught with cigarettes for the first time, smugglers from Ukraine and Satu Mare, Romania, presented identity documents issued by Hungary. When they were caught again, the smugglers presented identity documents issued by Romania or Ukraine.
Yet others came into Romania over the green strip, using powerful all-terrain vehicles, carts, horses and even bicycles.
And recently, smugglers had begun to use ‘light flying machines’ to bring cigarettes into Romania.
‘What recommendations can the Commission make to the Romanian authorities to limit smuggling on the Romanian borders?’ Buda asked.
In its written reply, the Commission said it and member states had already taken several actions to curb the illegal tobacco trade, in particular at the EU’s Eastern borders. ‘In 2011, the Commission presented a Staff Working Paper to address problems identified in that particular area,’ it said. ‘The Commission adopted a comprehensive strategy on stepping up the fight against cigarette smuggling and other forms of illicit trade in tobacco products more generally in 2013.
‘As concerns the illicit tobacco trade at the Romanian external border, the Commission’s European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) co-operates with the EEAS (European External Action Service) and EUBAM (EU Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine) within the scope of its mandate. In this regard, specific recommendations such as anti-corruption measures, enforcing border controls and the enhancing of cross border co-operation are constantly revised.
‘At the operational level, a Joint Customs Operation (JCO ROMOLUK) involving the customs, police and border forces of Romania, Moldova and Ukraine was conducted in spring 2013. Like any other JCO, ROMOLUK was a co-ordinated and targeted action of a limited duration with the aim of combating the smuggling of sensitive goods and fraud in certain risky areas and/or on identified trade routes. OLAF provided the necessary support for the Romanian, Ukrainian and Moldovan authorities to conduct co-ordinated actions. JCO ROMOLUK helped to improve risk indicators and led to recommendations to improve the effectiveness of customs controls.’
The Commission said that it encouraged third countries to join the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products of the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.