Dozens of electronic “eyes”, kilometers of optical fiber, bars with sensors and a state-of-the-art bridge plate, which will facilitate the detection of fuel smuggling attempts, were acquired a few months ago by the Evzones Customs, on the border with North Macedonia, with the new equipment it allows almost universal control of passing vehicles, while until now it was only done on a sample basis, at a rate of about 5% of those passing through.

The relevant interventions were made within the framework of the “We Cross Borders” project, with a total budget of 1.21 million euros, financed by the “Interreg IPA CBC CCI” cross-border cooperation program, as pointed out, speaking to the Athenian/Macedonian News Agency, the project project manager Emilios Leonidis, executive of the Decentralized Administration of Macedonia-Thrace (lead partner of “We Cross Borders”).

According to Mr. Leonidis, as part of the project, which ends on November 30, more than 3 kilometers of optical fiber, 24 closed-circuit surveillance cameras, 22 license plate recognition cameras and 15 container code recognition cameras, 15 traffic control bars with sensors were installed at the customs office and 15 illuminated instruction signs.

“Before the project and the installation of this equipment, there was almost nothing like it. The control of passing vehicles was sampled, about 5% of those crossing the border, while now it is almost universal, at least 95%. When a vehicle – car or truck – crosses the border, an illuminated sign invites the driver to stop. The camera “reads” the license plate, which is passed to the system and if the registration number is not on a “black list”, the bar is raised and the vehicle can continue its journey” he explains, adding that the whole process does not take more than from 15-30 seconds. Of course, there is also the necessary police control, when required.

In addition to camera equipment and related software, the project replaced the old concrete bridge deck of the customs house. “The old one, built more than 20 years ago, was made of concrete and was beginning to show signs of deterioration. The new one, in addition to being of greater capacity, with specifications for 60 tons, is now metal and of the latest technology, which is expected to significantly facilitate the control of fuel smuggling”, the project manager points out. Bridge plastering and some computers were also installed on the other side of the border, in Bogoroditsa, North Macedonia, where there were some delays, as the tender for the bridge plastering was declared barren three times, according to Mr. Leonidis, who recalls that, due to pandemic, the project schedule – for the Greek part of which the contract was signed in April 2018 – “went back”.


What are the next steps? “At some point all this equipment will have to come under the ownership of the Independent Public Revenue Authority, while similar projects could be done in the future in other customs, so that there is a total interconnection of them” says the project manager of the project, according to which the Decentralized Administration will also look at the new calls within the Interreg programs in order to identify any projects that could extend the improvements of customs infrastructure and procedures to other geographical areas of its competence.

As part of the project, the other partners of which are the Ministries of Finance (Customs Directorate) and the Interior and the Regional Development Fund of Central Macedonia, an action plan of approximately 250 pages was created by the company “Palmos Analysis”, whose officials visited the Customs and discussed with its executives regarding the legislative framework and applicable procedures. Among other things, it was proposed to increase the number of police personnel to a 90-man permanent force in order to staff all available checkpoints, depending on day-to-day requirements. Accordingly, it was proposed to strengthen the staffing of the Customs Office with staff since, as pointed out in the text of the action plan, “under the current circumstances, it is considered insufficient numerically, resulting in fatigue and the risk of performing faulty checks, especially during peak periods”. They are working at the customs office today, as he explains