Working for a common cause; Balkan ILEA delegates pledge to fight organized crime in their homelands
Delegates from Bulgaria, Kosovo and Macedonia stand while the Bulgarian national anthem is played during their graduation ceremony Friday at ILEA-Roswell. The national anthems for the other two delegate nations were also performed. (Timothy P. Howsare Photo)
Considering the bloody conflicts dating back centuries in the Balkan states, with the most recent in the late 1990s, it is a small miracle that 36 delegates from the nations of Bulgaria, Kosovo and Macedonia broke bread with each other after graduating from the a transnational organized policy forum at the International Law Enforcement Academy-Roswell on Friday.
ILEA is a program of the U.S. Department of State, Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. The mission of ILEA is to support emerging democracies and to help protect U.S. interests by providing training to high-ranking law enforcement officials and prosecutors throughout the globe.
The 36 delegates graduating on Friday were mostly high-ranking law enforcement officials, but a few were criminal prosecutors. Included in their four-weeks of training was a course in academic criminal justice.
Each nationality of delegates had a representative who made remarks at the graduation ceremony.
Ivan Pavlov spoke in Bulgarian as his words were translated to English and the other two Balkan languages.
He said the month he spent at ILEA was a valuable education experience and that he will be sad to leave the new friends and colleagues he made in Roswell.
He joked about two Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents attending the ceremony as invited guests. “You are probably having people from ICE, immigration, here in case one of us decides to stay!”
Speaking in English, Florie Harja of Kosovo, one of the three female delegates, said in English, “Today, I believe we are more capable of building a network of regional cooperation to fight against crime.”
When communism collapsed in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it led to the expansion of Balkan organized crime activities, according to the FBI website. Criminal markets once closed to Balkan groups, including illegal gambling and human trafficking, suddenly opened, leading to the creation of an international crime network.
Harja’s colleague from Macedonia, Aleksandar Janez, agreed that a unified regional effort is needed to break the crime ring.
“We can use this knowledge in our homeland to fight organized crime,” he said in Macadonian.
Janez added that he was grateful to give back to the Roswell community by helping with construction of a Habitat for Humanity house.
About 10 delegates participated in the volunteer program to build decent, affordable housing for low-income families.
The diplomas were presented by Dr. Lili Johnson, academic director, and Frank R. Taylor, project manager, and each of the three delegate representatives in turn gave a gift to Johnson, Taylor and the ILEA staff.
Johnson gave a special thanks to the nine translators, three from each language, who had to sit in the “cramped little booth” at the back of the auditorium in the ILEA facility.
After the graduation ceremony, a lunch with roast beef was held in the dining hall.
The next delegation will be held in September, with delegates from Serbia, Romania and Montenegro.
In October, the attending delegates will come from Hong Kong, Singapore and the Philippines.
The Roswell ILEA opened in 2001. The first opened in Budapest in 1995. Additional ILEAs were established in Bangkok in 1999, Gaborone in 2001 and San Salvador in 2005.