Integrated Border Management: an interview with EUAM’s Head of the Strategic Civilian Security Sector Reform Component, Brian Richard

September 08, 2016

 

An Action Plan for Integrated Border
Management (IBM) came into force in Ukraine on 5 September 2016 after adoption
by the Council of Ministers on 31 August. Strategic advice for the Action Plan
was provided by the EU Advisory Mission (EUAM) Ukraine with the objective of
increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of agencies working in border
management in line with best European practice. IBM is a system which promotes
cross-border and inter-agency coordination and cooperation. Implementation of
the concept will help Ukraine enhance security at the border and meet
international obligations, including those relating to visa liberalisation.

 


In this interview, EUAM’s Head of Strategic
Civilian Security Sector Reform, Brian Richard, provides a few insights into
the principles underlying IBM and why it is necessary.

 

On any
border, it is important to prevent illegal activity but also to facilitate
trade. Is there a tension between these two objectives?

 

Not necessarily – it is possible to improve
security at a border while also contributing to the free flow of goods and
people. If correctly implemented, Ukraine’s recently adopted IBM Action Plan will
promote national and regional stability as well as economic growth.

 

At its core, IBM recognises that national,
regional and global challenges in migration, trade facilitation and
cross-border crime cannot be solved by one country alone, nor by one agency in
a country. Cooperation is key. On the other hand, IBM also recognises that
resources are finite and have to be used in a targeted way.

 

What
does targeting resources mean in practice?

 

One way to achieve efficient resource
allocation is developing a thorough awareness of risks and threats and the
appropriate methods to respond to them. Let me give an example. You could spend
three hours thoroughly checking every family car that crosses the border. That
would however be an inefficient use of resources and would moreover annoy
people and create a bad first impression of the country.

 

Best practice is to proceed on the basis of
assessing threats. If for example you notice that a vehicle is travelling
regularly across a high-risk route, you might want to pay particular attention
to it. Patrolling a land or maritime border is expensive and you want to make
sure that you are using your budget efficiently, for example by sharing
equipment between agencies.

 

In order to counter threats and identify
risks, information sharing between countries and agencies is extremely
important. Information on the car I mentioned which travels regularly across a
high-risk route may be gathered from a number of different sources. This is one
of the reasons why promoting cooperation and coordination is a core goal for
IBM. Unfortunately, information sharing is not always easy to promote – a
culture of ‘information as power’ is a common problem. But to secure borders,
information needs to be shared and this also helps to reduce the potential for corruption.

 

Who
are the main actors in IBM in Ukraine?

 

There are state actors and non-state
actors. The main state actors in IBM in Ukraine are the State Border Guard
Service and the State Fiscal Service. But their success depends on cooperation
with other agencies such as the National Police, the Ministry of Internal
Affairs, the Security Service, the Ministry of Health as well as maritime
agencies, veterinary inspection, and phytosanitary inspection.

 

One of our proposals, which we hope will be
taken up in the future, is for Ukraine to have an inter-ministerial decision-making
committee to discuss issues related to border management, for example
overlapping competences between agencies. This committee would have a link to
legislators who can then amend laws wherever revisions to existing legislation
are required.

 

With regard to non-state actors, they play
an important role as middlemen between people and goods coming into a country
and state agencies – I’m talking about customs brokers or shipping companies
for example. They should have a role in fighting corruption, but sadly all too
often they are part of the problem. The general public also have a role to play
– like with community policing, the best way to combat illegal activity is to enjoy
the trust of the public. The State Border Guard Service has a hotline to report
corruption, but not other forms of illegal activity as far as I’m aware.

 

What
do you think should be the main objectives in Ukraine to enhance border
management?

 

 

I’ve mentioned how important assessing
risks and threats are, so I would put this as the first objective. I’ve also
noted how an overarching framework to discuss border management issues between
agencies – for example via an inter-ministerial committee – would be positive. Coordination
and cooperation are crucial at all levels.

 

Delineating competencies between different
agencies is another key objective. Sometimes agencies get into competitions
with each other and this leads to inefficiencies – I’ve heard of checks which
should take 20 minutes taking two hours because of a lack of a clear
delineation of competencies or inter-agency competition. There’s a case to be
made for the investigative powers of the Border Guard Service to be enhanced,
so that they can conduct investigations closer to the source of risks.  

 

Lastly as with many state agencies, the
capacity of staff needs to be boosted. Human resources is one area that EUAM
has been supporting the State Border Guard Service through training. For
example, on 14 September we will provide leadership training for managers in
the Border Guard Service in Kyiv. EUAM is also training border guards in
strategic communication – encouraging transparency is an important part of the
democratic reform process as well as obviously being crucial for information
sharing.

 

Do
you have any comments on the Action Plan for IBM?

 

We are very happy that the majority of our
comments on the IBM Action Plan were accepted. Eventually however, for the plan
to be effective there will need to be greater clarity about where the financing
to implement it will come from. Our Ukrainian partners assure us that this will
be covered in a separate document. The plan covers the period 2016-2020, which
is a very long time. We would have preferred a slightly more focused time-frame.
Overall however, the Action Plan is a sign that Ukraine is making progress in
implementing IBM and we will continue to provide advice, training and other
assistance to our partners when it comes to its implementation.