OLAF/05/08 Brussels, the 27 May 2005
A new coordination centre for joint customs operations has been opened at the premises of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) in Brussels. In the framework of OLAF's task of assisting national customs services in the fight against smuggling and illegal trade of goods, the new operations centre provides all the necessary facilities, both technical and logistical, for joint customs operations between Member States. This new permanent structure will allow flexibility in timing of operations in the future and a reduction in costs.
OLAF's role in the European Union's and its Member States' fight against smuggling and illicit trade coming from third countries is primarily at operational level. OLAF acts as a service platform for the Member States by providing assistance with strategic and operational analysis and operational support for the exchange of intelligence between Member States administrations. The new operations centre provides permanent facilities that shall promote the swift organisation of joint customs operations between Member States.
The operations centre, located at the OLAF building in Brussels, can house up to 15 teams of intelligence officers and is accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The customs operations centre is equipped with the most up-to-date information sharing software and facilities. During an operation, it allows the participating Member States' representatives to continuously analyse the situation and to decide swiftly about all the necessary operational steps. Those participants who are not physically present during an operation can follow events, via information technology, as they unfold in real time and offer their comments.
OLAF supports Member States in joint customs operations by providing logistical, administrative and technical aid. However, past operations of this kind have always been hosted by one of the participating Member States where all the equipment had to be set up each time anew. The new customs operations centre, with its permanent technical infrastructure, will make joint customs operations easier and less costly. This new structure is aimed at encouraging further cooperation between Member States to undertake joint operations in the future. Evidence of such positive cooperation can already been seen in the centre's full schedule over the coming months.
In 2003 and 2004, three joint customs operations led to the seizure of more than 42 million cigarettes, alcohol, counterfeit goods and dangerous goods, as well as seizures of illicit drugs:
The new operations centre also complements other activities undertaken by OLAF to support Member States in the fight against smuggling and illegal trade of goods, such as the promotion of information sharing among Member States, using a system of national points of contact, to facilitate and improve intelligence collection and analysis.
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