New report highlights wide-ranging impact of EU drug markets on society

The 2016 EU Drug Markets Report, published today by the EMCDDA and Europol, estimates that Europeans spend at least EUR 24 billion on illicit drugs each year, making it one of the main profit-generating activities for organised criminals in Europe. The report provides a state-of-the-art analysis of the EU illicit drug market, covering the trends along the supply chain from production and trafficking to marketing, distribution and consumption. It also analyses the considerable costs of these markets for society including their impact on businesses, government institutions, neighbourhoods, families, individuals and the environment.

Presenting the report’s findings Dimitris Avramopoulos, European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship said: ‘Today’s drug business criminals are quick to exploit and harm global flows of transport, goods and people, while posing a threat to public health. They use new technology and the internet, the growth of global trade and commercial infrastructure to perform their criminal activities rapidly across international borders. In addition, the instability in regions neighbouring the EU could have potentially profound effects on the drug market in Europe. This valuable report explores the links to other criminal activities and how the illicit income from the drug trade can fund migrant smuggling and terrorism, and undermine international development efforts.’

Alexis Goosdeel, EMCDDA Director, added ‘The EU drug market is driven by two simple motives: profit and power. Understanding this, and the wider impacts of drug markets on society, is critical if we are to reduce drug-related harm. This knowledge is essential for the development of new strategies for tackling crime and safeguarding the health, security and prosperity of our citizens’.

Rob Wainwright, Europol Director, said ‘Illicit drug production and trafficking remains one of the largest and most innovative criminal markets in Europe. As it grows more complex and becomes entwined with other forms of crime, and even terrorism, it represents a key threat to the internal security of the EU. Concerted cross-border law-enforcement cooperation is essential in reducing its scale and impact, and this can be achieved through the unique operational capabilities of Europol and other EU instruments’.

The report — accompanied by a Strategic Overview — combines the EMCDDA’s drug monitoring and analytical skills with Europol’s operational intelligence on trends in organised crime. It describes a market which is constantly evolving, adaptable and opportunistic, posing a key challenge for policy-makers, law-enforcement agencies and public health.  

The report shows that, while traditional trafficking routes persist, diversification continues. Routes appear to be less commodity-specific than before, whilst legitimate transport and logistic infrastructures continue to be exploited, with maritime containers representing a convenient channel for large consignments of drugs to be imported into Europe. Recent developments in internet markets including the dark net, anonymising software and crypto-currencies also offer new opportunities for online drug supply.

Three main themes emerge from the analysis in the report:

  • Increasing links between drug trafficking and other forms of crime: organised crime groups involved in the drug market are diversifying across multiple drugs, engaging in other forms of criminality including terrorism, forming alliances across ethnic and geographical borders and harnessing specialist expertise.
  • Accelerated rate of change in the drug market due to globalisation and technology: criminal groups are quick to exploit opportunities provided by easier access to information, the internet and the growth in international trade.
  • Geographical concentration of groups specialised in drug related crimes: drug production or trafficking are concentrated in specific geographical locations, within Europe and elsewhere; some are long established, while new zones are also emerging (e.g. heroin trafficking through the Southern Caucasus).

The report highlights how coordinated action at EU level can make a difference in tackling the illicit drugs trade and outlines a comprehensive range of recommendations and action points in key areas to inform future policies and initiatives.

The EU Drugs Strategy (2013–20) and Action Plan (2013–16) provide a framework for addressing illicit drugs in the EU, complementing Member States’ national strategies. The overarching objective is a measurable reduction of the availability of illicit drugs through the disruption of trafficking, dismantling of Organised Crime Groups, efficient use of the criminal justice system, effective intelligence-led law enforcement and increased intelligence sharing, and an EU-level emphasis on large-scale, cross-border and organised drug-related crime.

This news release is available in the EU languages at: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-16-1241_en.htm?locale=en

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