EU: Mafia groups in the Western Balkans are key players in European drug trafficking

Criminal groups in the Western Balkans have become key players in drug trafficking – both at the regional level and at the level of EUaccording to a report by the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).

The report published today shows that the strategic geographic location of countries such as Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo, combined with high demand for drugs, especially in the countries of the European Union and Turkey, have accelerated the activity criminal organizations. “Some EU countries are on human trafficking routes that pass through the Western Balkans before re-entering the EU. This means that human trafficking flows can be complex,” the center said in a report that is part of a larger regional study being conducted by in the period from 2019 to 2022.

Diasporas from the Balkans living in the EU also provide a pool of individuals who can be used or recruited into these schemes, the report says. The EMCDDA pointed to the permanent presence of Western Balkan groups in Belgium and the Netherlands, where the ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam are important for the distribution and importation of drugs into the EU.

Germany, Italy, Spain, Italy, Switzerland and the UK are also important locations for these organizations in the cocaine, heroin and cannabis markets in Europe, the EMCDDA noted. These mafia networks are also using the latest technology available to improve the efficiency of drug production, trafficking and money laundering, the report says. This includes sophisticated indoor growing equipment, drones, or the use of cryptocurrencies and encrypted communications.

Both the Western Balkans and the EU serve as safe havens for criminals on the run from rival gangs or law enforcement.

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