The EU is increasing its involvement in the Western Balkans. Time to discuss how public funds are being protected against fraud and irregularities!

With the Western Balkans becoming more important as beneficiaries of EU funds, it is very important that regional actors are cooperating to protect funds against fraud, corruption and other illegal activities, and linking the EU’s administrative investigations to national criminal investigations. The cooperation between the EU and national authorities on fighting fraud is an important milestone towards EU accession.

On 21 and 22 March, anti-fraud specialists from all over the Western Balkans Region and from the European Anti-Fraud Office’s (OLAF) came together in Belgrade to discuss their cooperation on fraud investigations and their interlinkages with national criminal investigations. The conference brought together key prosecutors, law enforcement officers and representatives of the anti-fraud coordination services (AFCOS) from the entire region.

In the EU’s work to counter fraud, a functioning cooperation with national authorities of both its members and states that receive funds from the EU budget (such as accession candidates) is highly important. OLAF is one of the EU’s main tools to fight fraud, corruption and other illegal activities that threaten its financial interests. OLAF has concluded more than 200 investigations and issued 294 investigations to the relevant national and European authorities in 2021 alone. More than 500 million Euros were recommended to be recovered to the European Union budget from serious irregularities and fraud in that year. Read more on it here.

The Regional Conference focused on key issues regarding the pre-investigation phase (e.g. how OLAF selects its cases out of the more than 5.000 incoming reports) and investigations (including legal aspects but also very hands-on practical issues such as organizing on-the-spot-checks and what to do in case of non-cooperation).

The event was co-hosted by the Serbian Ministry of Finance, OLAF, the Center for International Legal Cooperation (CILC) and German Development Cooperation which was represented through the regional project “Countering Serious Crime in the Western Balkans”, implemented by GIZ, Italian Ministry of the Interior and CILC, and the project “Public Finance Reform – 2030 Agenda” in Serbia. The latter is closely cooperating with the Serbian Anti-Fraud Coordination Service (AFCOS) to strengthen its capacities and improve coordination with EU’s bodies.

Individuals can report irregularities involving EU funds online in all official languages of the EU.