Cross-Border Crime and Estonia’s Accession to the European Union

Author:Jüri Saar, Anna Markina

1. Introduction - 2. Methodology - 3. Changes in cross-border crime - 3.1. Migration of crime - 3.2. Criminal organisations - 3.3. Illegal migration and trafficking in women - 3.4. Drug related crimes - 3.5. Economic crimes and counterfeiting - 3.6. Smuggling - 3.7. Corruption - 3.8. Other crimes - 4. Conclusions


Jüri Saar, Anna Markina

Cross-Border Crime and Estonia's Accession to the European Union

1. Introduction

The issues of cross-border crime2 related to Eastern Europe were already topical before the current enlargement of the European Union. The majority of foreign criminologists and experts claim that crimes between the East and the West have increased considerably, diversified, and become more 'organised' over the decades, with radical social change and broadening crime opportunities3. What will happen in cross-border crime after the accession of the ten countries, including Estonia and other former Soviet republics, is a question to which various answers have been given.

Cross-border crime related to Estonia and the other Baltic states has mainly been examined in the context of the movement of offenders from these countries to the European Union and the resulting worsening of the crime situation in the old member states4. Such stereotypical assessment is rather prevalent both in Western European public opinion and among law enforcement professionals5. Here we can perceive the transfer of similar views to new circumstances, or unwillingness to alter earlier attitudes. This is illustrated by an organised crime report for 2002 prepared by Europol, which concludes among other things that Estonian organised crime groups have fully taken over the role of drug traffickers to Finland6. Such an attitude is also manifested in the image of the (Russian) mafia, which has been created to emphasise the extreme danger accompanying the offenders from the 'new' states7.

This is likely to be a subjective assessment of danger, which mainly derives from the superficial knowledge of the situation in these states and the low precision of objective assessment methods. The main point is that such one-sided interpretation of a still developing situation definitely does not constitute sufficient preconditions for creating an adequate overview of the actual cross-border crime and the establishment of better co-operation between the law enforcement authorities of different countries. For example, pressure exerted on Estonia from the West where criminal activities are concerned need not be smaller than that exerted from here toward the West concerning any type of criminal offence. This is evidenced by the repeated attempts of suspicious persons from Western European countries to participate in the privatisation of Estonia's major infrastructure objects at the beginning and in the middle of the 1990s. The most important shortcoming involves sticking to the framework of the old stereotypes; failure to see the actual developments in international (cross-border) crime and its dangers; and, as a result, the lack of preparedness to combat them.

From the point of view of Estonia and the other new member states of the European Union, an attempt should be made to, after establishing the necessary foundations, make an original contribution to handling cross-border crime. That refers to participation in defining and interpreting the phenomenon and in various stages of the development of control measures.

The general objective of this survey was to analyse the status of cross-border crime and its possible developments upon Estonia's accession to the European Union. Further to that, there was examination of changes accompanying the accession in international co-operation on legal protection, in order to plan the resources of agencies dealing with prevention of criminal offences and to map the national and international co-operation network in the field.

2. Methodology

The study included interviews with the leading officials of Estonian law enforcement authorities. The DELPHI method was applied, which involves questioning a group of top experts in an area. The advantage of the method is that the group as a whole yields a better result than the most competent expert belonging to the group8.

During the survey, information on the problem examined was first gathered separately from each expert. The information obtained was summarised, and an overview of the group perception of the problem was prepared. This included highlighting areas on which the experts agreed and those where dissenting opinions were expressed. The dissenting opinions were taken down and sent to the experts as feedback so that they could express their opinions about the causes of the dissenting opinions and argue their case.

The experts were selected from the institutions that the authors knew as addressing issues of cross-border crime control. The expert group comprised the leading officials of the relevant departments of the Police Board, the Security Police Board, the Border Guard Administration, customs, the court system, the Prosecutor's Office, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, and the Ministry of Finance. Taking into account the hierarchy of the ministries and agencies, the management of each institution was also notified of the study.

At first, 64 questionnaires were distributed electronically. By questioning the experts individually instead of finding out the official position of the institution, we appealed to the intuition and knowledge of individual experts. It could be presumed that such individual opinions were not included in those questionnaires completed collectively in the agencies. The experts from the Ministry of Finance either did not reply or announced their insufficient competence in issues of cross-border crime, as they did not consider handling crime to fall within their area of competence. It was relatively difficult to select experts from the Security Police (KAPO), the Tax Fraud Investigation Centre of the Tax Board (MUK), and the Border Guard Administration. Finally, some answers could be obtained from the MUK and KAPO; however, the opinions of the experts of the Border Guard Administration were never received. The number of completed questionnaires sent back was 24.

The objective of the questionnaire distributed in the first stage was to collect information on how cross-border crime was defined by the experts working in the field.

The second stage summarised the information collected during the first stage. This was used to prepare three survey instruments. One questionnaire focussed on changes in cross-border crime upon accession to the European Union, another handled co-operation with other countries and the European Union structures, and the third examined the efficiency of various measures in controlling cross-border crime in different agencies. This way, the members of the DELPHI panel received generalised feedback about how the other experts in the field assessed the situation. The final answers were obtained from 19 experts. In the third stage, the information gathered in the second stage was summarised and a consolidated report prepared. The consolidated report was made available to the members of the DELPHI panel in order to receive comments and clarification.

3. Changes in cross-border crime

In order to delimit the phenomena falling into the category of cross-border crime, the experts were first requested to freely list forms of cross-border crime. The outcome was a list of (criminal) types of behaviour and structures, which were divided into eight subgroups. After this, the experts assessed what would happen in the particular fields after Estonia acceded to the European Union.

3.1. Migration of crime

The experts assessed the migration of crime in great detail, and the majority of them predicted an increase in the migration of crime upon Estonia's accession to the European Union. The experts expected the greatest increase in the hiding of Estonian fugitives in other countries and the commission of crimes by 'new immigrants' to Estonia. The immigrants cited include persons from countries that are far afield (such as China and other Asian countries). The opinion was that the number of crimes committed by Estonian residents in other European countries ranked third and commission of crimes in Estonia by residents of European Union countries came fourth.

Figure 1. Assessment of migration of crime (N=19).


An increase in the number of crimes committed by residents of the CIS in Estonia was considered least likely, due to the role of the Estonian/Russian border as a well-protected external frontier of the European Union upon EU accession. Neither was more frequent involvement of Estonian citizens as victims of crimes in the other European Union countries predicted.

3.2. Criminal organisations

In the responses provided by the experts, cross-border crime was often associated with criminal organisations. The...

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