WCO and OSCE deploy a virtual PITCH training for the Eastern and Central European Customs

18 March 2021

Twenty four Customs officers from Eastern and Central Europe took part in a virtual specialized PITCH (Preventing Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Heritage) training, organized jointly by the World Customs Organization (WCO) and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) from 15 to 18 March 2021.

Participants represented 13 Customs administrations from Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine, as well as the Regional Intelligence Liaison Office (RILO) Eastern and Central Europe. The training was an opportunity for the officers to refresh their skills, expand their knowledge, and network with peers from around the region.

The training was supported by experts from INTERPOL’s Works of Art Unit, the University of Oslo and the Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA).

“The WCO-OSCE cooperation in the sphere of countering the illicit trafficking of cultural objects, which was initiated several years ago is an excellent example of how international organizations can create synergies and deliver training to their Members with the best use of available resources. This is particularly important in times when the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly undermined a lot of capacity-building initiatives and forced both the donors and Customs administrations to prioritize certain areas of enforcement over others,” said Pranab Kumar Das, Director of the WCO’s Compliance and Facilitation Directorate.

“2020 and early 2021 are full with challenges for Customs agencies, related to the impact of the pandemic, but also related to the changing trends and modus operandi of individuals and organized criminal groups. Illicit trafficking of cultural property is no exception in this regards, and requires constant vigilance and above all – cooperation across the borders if we are to fight it successfully. We do believe that this training would contribute towards increasing of Customs expertise and efficiency of the agencies as a whole and will contribute towards protection of the rich cultural heritage in the ECE region and beyond,” said Goran Stojkovski, Customs Adviser at the OSCE Secretariat’s Border Management and Security Unit.

The training is another stepping stone towards achieving the objective of the global deployment of the PITCH training for Customs administrations highlighted in the WCO’s 2016 Council Resolution and the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2347/2017. The training has already been successfully deployed in the countries of the West and Central Africa, Middle East and North Africa, Central Asia and Balkan regions, as well as in Jordan and Cuba.

This training follows the other two successful joint WCO-OSCE deployments in Central Asia in 2019 and in the Balkan countries in 2020. The work being done in this area of enforcement is based on the Working Arrangement that both Organizations signed in 2018, providing the framework for co-operation in areas of mutual interest.