‘Extreme drug-related violence’ taking its toll on Europe, say EMCDDA and Europol

Extreme drug-related violence in Europe is ‘putting a strain on local communities and society’, says a new report from EMCDDA and Europol.

The  vastly profitable drug market across EU countries – estimated to be worth at least EUR 30bn a year – intersects with other organised crime activities like firearms trafficking and money laundering, says EU drug markets: key insights for policy and practice, with the continent occupying a ‘central position’ in drug supply and trafficking.

Not only do ‘huge’ volumes of cocaine arrive in ports like Antwerp and Rotterdam – with record seizures last year (https://www.drinkanddrugsnews.com/record-cocaine-seizures-across-europe/) – but there is also a growing trend towards cocaine production within the EU itself, the report says. Evidence indicates that Latin American and European networks are collaborating in production involving ‘the (rarely detected) smuggling of large quantities of coca paste and cocaine base to Europe for further processing into cocaine hydrochloride’. There is also large-scale domestic production of synthetic drugs and cannabis, it adds, with widespread corruption helping to facilitate trafficking.

Huge volumes of cocaine are arriving at some European ports

Some EU member states are now seeing ‘unprecedented levels’ drug-related violence, the document says, including kidnappings, killings and torture. While this usually remains between criminal networks, innocent people can also be involved, increasing the ‘perception of public insecurity’ alongside corruption’s ‘corrosive effect on the fabric of society’. Drug gangs rely on corruption across all levels of the market to mitigate risks, it states, including ‘those posed by the criminal justice system’ – as well as targeting people with access to key infrastructure such as ports and other logistics hubs.

Based on 2021 data, the EU cannabis market is estimated to be worth EUR 12.1bn annually, cocaine 11.6bn, and heroin EUR 5.2bn, with MDMA and amphetamines together accounting for just over EUR 2bn. Recent shocks to the drugs market, such as COVID, the war in Ukraine and the Taliban’s opium ban, have only served to demonstrate how ‘adaptable, innovative and resilient’ criminal networks are, says the report – diversifying their methods and changing trafficking routes. European countries need to boost international cooperation, improve the monitoring and analysis of drug-related violence, and prioritise crime prevention policies focused on young people at risk of exploitation and recruitment by drug networks, the document urges.

Alexis Goosdeel: Calling for a holistic European approach to tackling violence and corruption

‘Violence and corruption, long witnessed in more traditional drug-producing countries, are now increasingly seen within the EU,’ said EMCDDA director Alexis Goosdeel. ‘Violence can occur at all levels of the market. It is both a by-product and facilitator of the drugs trade – a trade that is often secured through fear and force. We need a holistic European approach to tackle this problem through strengthening our communities, building resilience and preventing the recruitment of young people into crime, providing them with long-lasting alternatives.’

‘Criminal networks infect the very core of our communities, weaving through the fabric of our democracy and economy,’ added Europol’s executive director Catherine De Bolle. ‘They erode trust, fuel violence, and create cycles of addiction and poverty. A vigilant, unified response is needed to safeguard our citizens and society from the omnipresent influence of this invisible enemy.’

Report at https://www.emcdda.europa.eu/publications/eu-drug-markets/analysis-key-insights-policy-and-practice_en

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