A new EU-wide ‘roadmap’ has been adopted to tackle drug trafficking and criminal networks, the European Commission has announced.
Seizures of cocaine in the EU are at an all-time high, with more than 300 tonnes seized in 2021 (https://www.drinkanddrugsnews.com/record-cocaine-seizures-across-europe/), the most recent year for which figures are available. More and more cocaine is also being manufactured in the EU itself, with Europe overtaking the saturated US market as the largest single cocaine market in the world.
Europol’s 2021 European Union serious and organised crime assessment stated that the European drug trade was more violent than it had ever been (https://www.drinkanddrugsnews.com/europes-drug-trade-more-violent-than-ever-says-europol/), with an increase in the number of ‘killings, shootings, bombings, arsons, kidnappings, torture and intimidation’. Last year a Dutch court sentenced 11 men after the discovery of a soundproofed torture chamber hidden in shipping containers.
‘The scale, sophistication and violent consequences of organised crime have become a serious threat to the EU’s security,’ the roadmap document states. ‘As criminal networks’ methods become more sophisticated, so should the EU’s: the response to dismantle these networks needs to be stepped up urgently.’
The roadmap sets out four priority areas, the first of which is a new European Ports Alliance. Almost three quarters of the cocaine seized in 2021 was in Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain, with the trafficking of extremely high volumes through ports like Antwerp and Rotterdam driving the high availability of the drug. The alliance will aim to increase the resilience of ports against criminal infiltration – where port workers are either bribed or intimidated into helping the trafficking gangs – by reinforcing the work of customs, law authorities and others with ‘state-of-the-art scanning and equipment’.
Other priority areas are using financial and digital investigations to dismantle criminal networks, preventing them from recruiting young people, and working with international partners to strengthen law enforcement and judicial cooperation with non-EU countries.
‘The threat of organised crime and drug trafficking is worsening,’ said commissioner for home affairs, Ylva Johansson. ‘It is not only affecting rival gang members, but also innocent people, including children, who find themselves in the crossfire. I have said that we need a network to fight a network. This new roadmap, which will scale up our response, is a significant step in building that network.’
‘Customs are on the front line in our common EU fight against drug-trafficking – a phenomenon which causes untold violence, crime and suffering,’ added commissioner for economy, Paolo Gentiloni. ‘This year we have already put forward proposals for a robust, data-driven reform of the EU Customs Union so that, managed by a future customs authority, it can more easily control imports and stop risky goods, such as illegal drugs. In the meantime, we need to ramp up cooperation and information sharing between officials on the ground at entry points to the EU – a proven driver of success in stemming the tide. That’s where the European Ports Alliance can have real added value.’
Communication on the EU roadmap to fight drug trafficking and organised crime at https://home-affairs.ec.europa.eu/communication-eu-roadmap-fight-drug-trafficking-and-organised-crime_en