On 29 November, the 3rd Regional Steering Group (RSG) meeting was held in Astana. Representatives from the border and customs services, foreign ministries, and migration management agencies of each Central Asian (CA) country (as project beneficiaries) together with BOMCA Consortium partners and representatives from the Delegations of the European Union in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan jointly assessed the Programme’s achievements and challenges to date, discussed the work plan for next year and spoke about country priorities with regard to possible BOMCA continuation beyond 2018.

While the main focus of the BOMCA programme is ‘soft’ components, strengthening professional skills and expertise in the relevant areas, technical support in the form of equipment is also provided to each CA country. The handover of equipment in the region started in Uzbekistan. The State Security Committee received a Regula video spectral comparator.

Between 14-16 November BOMCA invited training experts to conduct training of trainers on an advanced level of document security for relevant national experts from border agency training institutions and border control officers from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Workshops on interagency cooperation at border crossing points were held in Astana (2-4 October) and Ashgabat (7-9 November) and follow successful implementation of a similar event in Bishkek in July 2017. The events brought together representatives from the border and customs services of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan as well as BOMCA experts from the Latvian State Border Guard. The purpose of the workshops was to promote the Integrated Border Management concept, where interagency cooperation among all relevant authorities and agencies involved in border security and customs is one of the three pillars. The workshops also provided a good opportunity to share experiences in this area and learn about solutions based on the Latvian experience. During the workshops, draft agreements for interagency cooperation and information exchange within and between the border agencies were elaborated based on international best practices.

BOMCA has introduced a distance learning tool in Kyrgyzstan to be used in the education and retraining of border guards. On 3 November, at the European Union Delegation in Kyrgyzstan, the system was officially handed over and its capabilities and advantages presented to the State Border Service and Military Armed Forces Institute. A test connection between Kyrgyzstan and Latvia was made and the first pilot lecture was conducted by Border Guard College in Rezekne, Latvia.

A bilateral practical workshop on detection of illegal movement of goods and vehicles was held between 24-28 October in Hudzhand, Tajikistan for representatives of the customs and border agencies of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. In total, 20 officers from both countries took part in the training.

Between 17 and 20 October, a study visit to Latvia was organized for the border guard, customs, and phytosanitary and veterinary services of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. It formed the final stage of the national workshops on HR and finance planning which have been conducted in all five Central Asian countries during the course of 2016 and 2017. Based on the training needs revealed during the national workshops, 12 national partners total took part in the visit and expanded their knowledge and skills in the area of proper HR management and financial planning and control.

A regional workshop on advancing cross-border procedures through one-stop customs inspection was held in Bishkek between 10-12 October, gathering customs, border agencies and phytosanitary agencies from Central Asian countries, with the main goal being to increase their awareness of the potential of one-stop shops to create new possibilities for economic growth and people mobility across borders.