EU, Colombia, Ecuador working to decapitate cocaine trafficking in Europe
By Fernando Gimeno
Quito, Feb 28 (EFE).- The leaders of the transnational criminal organizations behind the increasing flow of cocaine by sea to European ports will be the targets and the priority for a new cooperation program the European Union is seeking to implement with Colombia and Ecuador.
That is what European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said after her first day in Quito on a tour of both Ecuador and Colombia along with Belgian Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden to increase cooperation against drug trafficking and organized crime.
“The priority is to go for the leadership of these organized criminal groups,” said Johansson, a former Swedish government minister, who has proposed to the EU Council launching negotiations to achieve a bilateral agreement to exchange information and personal data between Europol and the Ecuadorian National Police.
The European official warned that “the criminals are organized like multinational companies and are very strong,” adding that “they … are very quick to adapt to new possibilities or to new circumstances.”
“We need to be much stronger in our international cooperation. We need a network to fight a network, and I (found) here in Ecuador a huge willingness to step up in our cooperation,” Johansson said.
“We’re also discussing here how we can set up an intelligence hub in the port of Guayaquil, for example. … So, the important (thing) is to have quick access and sharing of information … and experience and expertise,” she added.
The Guayaquil, located on the Guayas River, is Ecuador’s largest port and the main focus of the South American tour being undertaken by Johansson, the first European commissioner for home affairs to travel to Latin America.
According to Belgian authorities, at least half of the record 110 tons of cocaine seized in 2022 at the port of Antwerp arrived from Guayaquil, which last year was designated by the United Nations as one of the main springboards in South America for the cocaine arriving in Europe.
Johansson and Verlinden on Tuesday visited the Guayaquil port facilities to “learn more about how they are working today.”
The EU wants to “discuss how we can deepen our cooperation and how we can have more of a port-to-port cooperation and exchange of information, also including the private sector, the shipping companies,” she said.
When asked whether the Ecuadorian government had asked the European Union for help or advice regarding its plan to provide the ports with container scanners, Johansson said that she had received no request along those lines and emphasized Quito’s promised intention to try and monitor all port shipments with those scanners.
Regarding her meetings with Ecuadorian authorities, the Swedish EU official emphasized that she had found in Quito a “huge willingness to deepen the police cooperation, the port-to-port cooperation, the cooperation to fight corruption … especially when it comes to drugs.”
Johansson reiterated that both Colombia and Ecuador are countries that share the principles and values of the EU.
She went on to say that she expected that the authorities of all three parties will continue to evaluate mechanisms to strengthen cooperation against drug trafficking and organized crime at the EU-Latin American summit to be held in July in Madrid, with Spain holding the rotating presidency of the European bloc.
“It’s really important because, for citizens here in Latin America and … in the European Union member states, the security issue is very high on the agenda … and it’s important that we step up our cooperation,” Johansson said.
“It’s necessary for this to be on the agenda for this very important summit that will take place under the Spanish presidency,” she added.