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Enlargement, 3 years after

European Commission - Enlargement - Enlargement, 3 years after - Strength in numbers training police

Strength in numbers: new Member States enhance police cooperation in the EU.

One of the objectives of the European Union is to create a space of freedom, security and justice for all citizens living within its territory. There are many advantages to a borderless Europe: more and more Europeans take advantage of their rights to move freely around the EU either for business or personal reasons. Unfortunately international terrorist groups and criminal organizations can also benefit from and abuse this freedom.

To effectively counter these threats, the national law-enforcement agencies of the EU Member States must co-operate with each other, through different mechanisms established for this purpose, on an almost daily basis.

Rider on motorcycle

One of the most important tools to ensure the effectiveness of the police forces in the Member States is adequate training. Common training in certain key subject areas for senior police officials of the EU Member States brings an added value to national training, contributing to the effectiveness of the Member States' police forces in the fight against crime, especially cross-border crime, in the European Union.

Since 2001, the European Police College (CEPOL), which brings together the national police training institutes of the Member States of the EU, has been offering courses to senior police officers of the EU Member States and accession and candidate countries, in order to increase their knowledge of national police systems, of European co-operation instruments and mechanisms, as well as of a wide range of specific subjects, such as counter-terrorism, illegal immigration and border control or trafficking in human beings. Other bodies, such as the Association of European Police Colleges (AEPC) or the Mitteleuropäische Polizeiakademie (MEPA) also contribute to improving police training across Europe.

With the arrival of new Member States to the EU in May 2004 and January 2007, the coalition against organized crime and terrorism has become even stronger.

"The new Member States are playing a very active role," explains Maurice Petit, Director of the Belgian Police College and currently the President of the AEPC. "Romania organized the last annual conference of AEPC very effectively. Cyprus is next in line, and Latvia will host the meeting of our Governing Board in the first semester of 2008."

The new Member States are both learning from the older ones and bringing a particular dynamism to cooperation in police training. "The new Member States are quite advanced in the Bologna process", continues Petit, "in some cases ahead of old Member States. Romania, for example, has already re-structured its system of police education and now offers Bachelors' and Masters' Degrees, as well as PhDs in police science."

Francisco T. Jacinto from the Portuguese Police Officers' Academy confirms this view. "The new Member States are very willing to progress. They are well advanced in the Bologna process." In his experience, the colleagues from new Member States also bring particular skills. "Our Polish colleagues at Europol speak Russian," he explains. "This is very useful for us, for example in the context of our working group against cyber-crime."
The ability to work in several languages is one of several attributes of the colleagues from new Member States that Ralph Rawsthorne, CEPOL coordinator at Centrex, has noticed in the years that he has been organizing training courses at his institution in the UK. "The colleagues are truly keen and eager to learn," says Rawsthorne. "About 50% of our courses are taken by the new Member States."

In his experience, some Member States, like Slovakia, are especially keen and have become key players in the drive to introduce more Western-style training methods in their own institutions, participating in activities like the CEPOL working group for science and research. "It's quite amazing, too," he says, "they are all able to work in three, four languages."

The seasoned inspector is grateful. "It's actually a saving grace," he says playfully. "I don't know how effective I'd be if I had to give those courses in Slovakian".

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Last update: 30/10/2010