The European Union sees Central Asia as one of the most strategically important regions. Trans-regional challenges such as human trafficking, trafficking of drugs, organised crime and terrorism influence the EU interests. Therefore, the EU has been supporting the Central Asian States through various development and cooperation mechanisms. The basis of the EU approach towards the Central Asian States is underlined in the document EU and Central Asia: Strategy for a New Partnership (click) that was adopted by the European Council in June 2007. The document was targeted at strengthening ties in numerous areas including political and human rights dialogue; cooperation on education; the rule of law; energy and transport; environment and water cooperation; threats and challenges relevant for the two sides; and trade and economic relations. The nature of this approach shows that the EU has developed a set of consolidated measures for providing support in Central Asia, not only targeting each country individually but also addressing challenges on the regional level.
Since border security is one of the key elements for stability of the whole region, in 2002 the EU developed a special Programme, the Border Management Programme in Central Asia (BOMCA), aimed at enhancing security, fighting against illegal trafficking and facilitating trade in Central Asia. Since its inception, the Programme has been specifically linked to a number of the EU objectives set forth in its strategic documents.
Since its launch in 2003, the BOMCA Programme has implemented phases targeting capacity building and institutional development, developing trade corridors, improving border management systems and eliminating drug trafficking across the Central Asia region. Each new phase of BOMCA was designed to gradually continue the Actions implemented during the preceding phases of the Programme. During its earlier phases, the Programme focused its resources on creating a modern border management infrastructure equipped with the latest equipment. With time the horizons of BOMCA became broader and the actions of the Programme not only targeted border guards, but also other authorities working in the area of customs, migration, drug control, agriculture, health, etc. The Programme introduced the concept and principles of Integrated Border Management (IBM), with the view to improve cooperation and communication channels among border agencies. The concept is not only built on best EU practice, but is also aimed at tackling the issue of coordination and consolidation of actions of the Central Asian border management institutions – one of the challenges that BOMCA had to face.
The latest BOMCA phase aimed especially at strengthening institutional reform and enhancing professional skills. During the 8th phase of BOMCA, several hundred members of Central Asian border authorities were trained on a wide range of topics, including IBM, Document Security, Stolen Vehicle Identification, Intelligence Gathering and Analysis, Border Control Procedures, Supply Chain Security, International Shipment of Strategic Goods, Post-Clearance Control, Customs Valuation, Modern Technologies in Border Control, Irregular Migration and THB, Counter-terrorism & Organised Crime, Anti-corruption, ToT and other relevant topics. Additionally, the foundation for establishing a consortia of training centres was laid whereby Border Guards and customs training institutions established partnerships with a view to harmonise training curricula, support strengthening capacities of neighbouring countries and partner with EU Border management training institutions.
Building on the success of the previous phases, the 9th phase of BOMCA intends to continue interventions in the areas of institution development, management of migration flows and trade facilitation.