Crime & Justice

Europe’s growing role in global drug trafficking

By Imane Rachidi

Brussels, May 6 (EFE).- The processing and trafficking of cocaine and methamphetamines are on the rise in Europe while global collaboration between criminal groups present new security threats, Europol and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) said in a report Friday.

Both agencies held an in-depth investigation into the cocaine and methamphetamine supply chain from the production of the narcotics to their trafficking, distribution and consumption.

“Today’s analysis shows that the European cocaine market is expanding, driven by unprecedented levels of trafficking leading to historically high availability,” the report said.

The methamphetamine market, by comparison, was small but “steadily growing” according to findings.

Cocaine is the second-most consumed illegal drug in the European Union after cannabis and had an estimated market value in 2020 of 10.5 billion euros. Around 3.5 million Europeans between 15-64 have admitted to taking cocaine in the last year while 14 million have done so in their lifetime.

Most of the cocaine seized in Europe arrived on the continent in shipping containers. A record 214.6 tons of the drug were seized in 2020, a 6% increase from the previous years.

Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain accounted for three-quarters of the cocaine seized in Europe followed by Italy, France, Germany and Portugal.

While South American countries like Colombia, Bolivia and Peru lead in terms of cocaine manufacturing, the processing of the drug is increasingly taking place in Europe, especially in Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands.

Europe is also used as a transit center to shift cocaine to the Middle East and Asia, the report said.

Analysis of the methamphetamine market showed long-term growth trends as the number of seizures of the synthetic narcotic substance doubled between 2010-20 from 3,000 to 6,000.

In 2020, 2.2 tons of methamphetamine were seized in Europe, a 477% increase in a decade while authorities dismantled 125 laboratories in the EU.

The studies into both drugs found that Latin American and European criminal groups were collaborating in the production, trafficking and distribution of the narcotics.

“The trade in illegal drugs continues to dominate serious and organized crime in the EU, and nearly 40% of the criminal networks operating at the international level reported to Europol are active in drug trafficking,” Europol’s executive director, Catherine De Bolle, said in the report.

“Today’s analysis supports us in understanding the market dynamics and is crucial for formulating effective law enforcement responses.”

EMCDDA director Alexis Goosdeel added: “Our new analyses show that we are now facing a growing threat from a more diverse and dynamic drug market, that is driven by closer collaboration between European and international criminal organizations.

“This has resulted in record levels of drug availability, rising violence and corruption, and greater health problems.”EFE


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