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Simultaneously, the access by all national law enforcement authorities, border and customs authorities, within their respective mandates, would highly improve the efficiency of the operational work on the field. The possibility to simultaneously insert or search information in several databases containing similar or complementary information should continue to be exploited.

Enhancing the exchange of ballistic information Most firearms have their own unique identifying features and even if the firearm has not been left at the crime scene, key information can nevertheless be determined from the bullet, the nature of the wound (if any) and any residue that is left around it.

There is currently no EU-wide system for the analysis of ballistic data, and no central repository to integrate and compare this analysis. So far, two different systems are usually used by EU Member States39. Under the 7th Framework Programme, the Commission supported a project (the Odyssey Platform) with the aim of tackling the problem of analysing crime and ballistic data taken from disparate ballistic systems across Europe40. Following the findings of the Odyssey project, the Commission will facilitate the exchange of ballistics' information through a dedicated platform using the Ballistic Information Network and other relevant systems in use by Member States.

Extensive use of iTRACE The international community currently lacks concrete information about when, where and how legally produced conventional weapons enter the illicit market and are diverted to actors in armed conflicts or to other illegal end-users.

The EU is therefore funding the "iTRACE" project41. Based on its positive results42, the EU supports a second phase of the iTRACE programme including the intensification of field investigations and the broadening of the tool's geographical scope. It is clear however that progress depends on States, including all EU Member States, responding to tracing requests.

Furthermore, any detection by any national law enforcement authority should be checked against this tool. To this end, the Commission will consider, for EU Member States, the necessity of binding rules in this area.

The Commission will support close cooperation between Europol, INTERPOL, the main iTRACE actors and other relevant bodies, such as customs and firearms import-export Interpol hosts the Ballistic Information Network (IBIN) for countries that have the Integrated Ballistics Identification Systems (IBIS) technology. Currently, 19 countries around the world, 8 of them Schengen area countries are IBIN members. 42 more countries use the IBIS technology but are not part of IBIN (3 of them EU countries). Until now 36 hits have occurred, the majority of them among EU countries.

http://research.shu.ac.uk/aces/odyssey/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=56&Itemid=8 Council Decision 2013/698/CFSP: iTrace gathers and provides precise and cross-verified information with on-theground data on illicit trade routes of diverted or trafficked conventional weapons. http://www.conflictarm.com/itrace/ In addition, the iTRACE project also specifically aims to support the implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty by assisting national authorities in detecting the diversion of transferred conventional weapons and in assessing diversion risks when examining export licence applications. Field investigations performed by experts from the private company "Conflict Armament Research" (CAR) in 21 countries (especially in Africa and the Middle East), feed a public access "weapons tracking database" on diverted or trafficked weapons.

130,000 items documented: weapons, ammunition and related material; 213 Trace requests sent to governments (as of July 2015).

licensing authorities, to optimise operational cooperation, traceability and the prevention of firearms being diverted onto the illicit market.

Developing the Europol Analysis System and ensuring the full use of Europol Focal Point on firearms In 2016, Europol is due to deploy a new Platform for the Europol Analysis System (EAS), a powerful analytical tool supporting the operational and strategic analysis of data provided by Member States and third parties. It is designed to be one of the core information processing systems of Europol. The Commission will strive to ensure the rapid and comprehensive implementation of this tool by assisting Member States and supporting complementary efforts to improve systematic monitoring of firearms. The Commission will consider the necessity of binding rules in this area to improve the capacity analysis of Europol for the support of all Member States law enforcement authorities.

At the Council's request in 2014, Europol set up a Focal Point on Firearms. It provides strategic and operational support to ongoing investigations. 21 Member States43 and 6 Third Partners are currently associated44 to this Focal Point. Since its inception, the Focal Point on Firearms has received 3,089 contributions with approximatively 625 investigative cases including information on 35,000 firearms, 28,700 persons and close to 3,216 suspected companies. This year, the Focal Point Firearms has received 1,750 contributions. The Commission urges all Member States to share information proactively and participate fully in the actions of the Focal Point on firearms.

Maximising the use of the European Bomb Data System (EBDS)

Within the EU Action Plan on Explosives, the Commission funded the development of the European Bomb Data System (EBDS) which is currently managed by Europol. The EBDS connects nearly all Member States, as well as Norway and the Commission, and can be used to exchange technical data concerning explosives and CBRN materials, as well as incidents, trends and devices.

Full connectivity by relevant users in the Member States should be ensured and further efforts should be devoted to identify all relevant possible users and to train its users. In addition, the Commission, together with Europol, will assess whether the EBDS should incorporate "early warning"-type information45, detection capabilities, and whether to link this system with other select European databases. To complement the information shared through the EBDS, the Commission will propose regular briefings in a classified environment for Member States and Europol to share specialised threat assessments on explosives.

Focal Point members: Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom.

Eurojust, Interpol, Switzerland, Australia, US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Albania.

An early warning system was developed under the EU Explosives Action Plan with funding from the Commission, but did not succeed in connecting all Member State authorities.

Specific actions:

 Assessment of existing systems of exchange of information relevant to the fight against firearms and explosives trafficking with to ensure their technical compatibility with a particular attention given to the need to enhance police-customs cooperation and the development foreseen by the draft Firearms Directive;

 Ensure effective interoperability between existing information systems, including iARMS/SIS II in relation with UMF;

 Extend the use of iTRACE, the European Bomb Data System (EBDS) and the Europol Analysis System while ensuring the full use of its Focal Point on firearms;

 Enhance the exchange of ballistic information through a dedicated platform


As set out in the Joint Communication of the European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on the Review of the European Neighbourhood Policy46 adopted on 18 November 2015, the EU will step up its cooperation with neighbouring countries on the security dimension, including on countering the illicit trafficking in human beings, the illicit trafficking of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) and drug cooperation.

The illicit trafficking and use of firearms and explosives should be systematically integrated into security dialogues with key partner countries and organisations. These dialogues should also lead, whenever relevant, to specific joint action plans on firearms and where possible also explosives, including EU agencies such as Europol, Eurojust and CEPOL as well as relevant international organisations such as the UN and INTERPOL. EU financial assistance could also be envisaged in certain cases (such as confiscated/decommissioned firearms), e.g. under the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace, other EU assistance programmes or the CFSP budget.

Training and other support measures (including the provision of relevant equipment and tools) to strengthen the capacities of partner countries and other relevant third countries against the illicit trafficking and use of firearms and explosives should, whenever relevant, be included in cooperation programmes at global, regional or bilateral level.

Enhancing operational activities and enlarging the scope of the EU-South East Europe Action Plan The EU and its South East Europe partners share an interest in enhancing their cooperation against common threats posed by the illicit trafficking of military-grade weapons and explosives47.

This cooperation was further developed through the adoption of an Action Plan on the illicit trafficking of firearms between the EU and the South East Europe Region for the years 2015-201948.

JOIN(2015) 50 final.

Since 2002, the EU has been supporting efforts to reduce the threat caused by the large scale accumulation of small arms and light weapons (SALW) and ammunition stockpiles in South East Europe (http://www.seesac.org/news.php?id=495).

Various projects have been financed by the EU in the Western Balkan region with a view to improve the security of stockpile management.

The activities under the Action Plan need to be rapidly stepped up to further reduce the illicit flow of firearms to the EU. Europol should accelerate the implementation of the Operational Action Plan 2016 of the Policy Cycle, notably through the setting up of intelligence-led joint operations, and closer cooperation between liaison officers in the region and the Firearms Experts Network.

The Commission will organise a second conference in early 2016 with its Western Balkan partners to assess the implementation of the Action Plan and discuss future steps, including the proposal to enlarge this Action Plan to illicit explosives.

Western Balkan countries are implementing national strategies to counter arms trafficking and proliferation of small arms and light weapons. Progress being made in this area is also being monitored in the context of the accession negotiations in chapter 24 – Justice, Freedom and Security.

Building upon the lessons learned from similar initiatives49, the Commission, in partnership with key partners, will consider the relevance of firearms buy-back schemes in the region.

Strengthening cooperation with Middle East and North African countries (MENA) The current instability in the MENA region, especially the protracted conflicts in Libya and Syria, has drastically increased the level of illicit trafficking of firearms in the region. It presents a significant long-term security threat to the EU that needs to be addressed urgently.

The EU has already started a dialogue to explore possible future cooperation with MENA countries (after exploratory contacts and a first conference with MENA countries at technical level on 1st October 2015) and will seek to enhance EU-MENA cooperation among relevant law enforcement agencies, ensure capacity-building assistance in relevant regional and/or bilateral programmes50 and develop operational actions under a commonly agreed framework.

This regional approach needs to be complemented at bilateral level by systematically including the firearms and explosives dimension in the policy dialogues with the MENA countries in the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy Association Agreements and related subcommittees on Justice and Home Affairs issues and, where relevant, the Following the EU-Western Balkans Ministerial Forum on Justice and Home Affairs held in Tirana in 2012, a regional network of experts in firearms trafficking was set up in 2013. This led to the adoption of the Action Plan. It was endorsed in December 2014 by both the Council and by the Western Balkan partners at the EU – Western Balkans

Ministerial Forum on Justice and Home Affairs in Belgrade. The action plan foresees the following actions:

 Enhancing the exchange of information at regional level and with Member States, involving Europol, on the production, stockpiling and trafficking of firearms and ammunition, aiming also to develop more effective investigative and intelligence standards;

 Enhancing operational law enforcement co-operation at regional level and with Member States and Europol to control the production, stockpiling and trafficking of firearms and ammunition;

 Improving the collection and exchange of statistics concerning the production, stockpiling and trafficking of firearms and ammunition;

 Promoting networking at all levels, the exchange of best practices and joint training among experts in the Western Balkan region;

 Harmonising national legislation on firearms in line with EU and international standards.

The EU Strategy to combat illicit accumulation and trafficking of SALW and their ammunition. Doc. 5319/06 PESC 31, 13 January 2006;

- Council Decision 2013/730/CFSP;

- UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects. http://www.un.org/disarmament/content Such as the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) and the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP), as is already the case with the new ENI-funded EUROMED Police IV programme (about to be launched).

specific counter-terrorism dialogues (already started with Tunisia or about to start with Lebanon, Jordan, Algeria and Morocco).

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