The project for the study of the acquisition of illegal firearms by terrorists in Europe (SAFTE) is an international research project created by the European Commission with the objective of fighting against the access terrorist groups have to the illegal weapons market in Europe. The study analyses the illegal weapons market in eight European states: Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, France, Italy, Holland, Romania, the United Kingdom,
This wishes to contribute to the enhancement of the experience and knowledge of illegal weapons markets in the EU, the networks used by terrorists to access such markets, to know the policies that member states have been developing to fight against this phenomenon, to suggest new policies for the states that are subjects of the study and other members of the EU to fight against the illegal sale of weapons and gather good practices detected in the member states so that they can be of use to other states.
In March 2018, the results of the focal points worked on during the project were published. These have shown the existence of several illegal weapons markets within the EU, each having its own specific characteristics and dynamic. These markets have gradually provided the connection between criminal groups and terrorists, meaning that terrorists can access firearms and even military material.
Terrorist networks can also get involved in the direct deviation of weapons that are initially legal, via selective theft of state or private property weapons. This happens when the specific type of arms they are searching for cannot be found, maybe because of a lack of the necessary criminal connections or a lack of availability on the illegal weapons market.
The study shows, with the backing of very specific related knowledge, how, for example, arms coming from Croatia are mainly used by groups active in Holland, Sweden, Germany and the United Kingdom, whereas the groups active in the rest of western Europe use arms using routes through Spain. On no account did the study rule out the possibility of the origin being Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
To fight against these criminal activities, they recommend a proactive attitude to improve knowledge of the trafficking of illegal weapons, adapting policies and regulating norms regarding weapons, and optimising operative capacities and cooperation, establishing a level of exchange at a national and International level.