Latest trends in drug trafficking in Europe

On 6th and 7th December 2018, 125 delegates from the member states of the EU, third countries and representatives of 11 international organisations met at the headquarters of Europol for the second annual “Drugs in Europe: a firm legal response” conference. Delegates discussed the latest trends in illegal drug trafficking and agreed on legislative responses to protect the public from the threats linked to illegal drugs.

The number of groups of organised crime and the provision of illegal drugs are increasing. Roughly 35 % of the 5,000 organised crime groups that practise in the EU on an International scale participate in the production, trafficking and distribution of illegal drugs. Organised criminal groups involved in the drug trade are extremely versatile. About 65 % of these simultaneously participate in other criminal activities like the sale of fake products, Money laundering, people trafficking and migrant smuggling. The illegal drugs market is the biggest criminal market in the EU and it is estimated that it generates about 24 mil million euros every year.

During the conference, delegates came to the following conclusions:

  • The number of organised crime groups is increasing as is the provision of illegal drugs. These phenomena constitute a growing threat to security and public health in the European Union and its state members, which have to guarantee suitable resources to combat these.
  • The illegal provision of drugs is a catalyst for high-level organised crime groups. It is the most lucrative part of their activities generating profits that are also related to violence, corruption, Money laundering, the exploitation of people, arms trafficking and other types of serious crime. A coordinated response is necessary on the part of the EU and its member states to the increase in organised crime and drug trafficking.
  • The organised crime groups that pose the greatest risk are increasingly more transnational. They carry out cross-border activities both within and outside the European Union. Police authorities of the member states of the EU need to improve information exchange, operative cooperation and coordination of activities.
  • High-level organised crime groups are changing thanks to their versatility. Their illegal activities are evolving very rapidly. As well as their investigations into illegal activities and commerce, police authorities should centre their operative activities on persons and groups that pose the biggest risk of committing serious organised crime in the EU.
  • Investigations into cross-border drug trafficking and organised crime call for the prompt availability of, among other things, the latest technology.
  • Given that organised crime affects all aspects of society, it is necessary to stress the importance of the development and implementation of global legislation to recover assets in order to effectively avoid these phenomena.
  • To address the challenges caused by the increase in drug trafficking and organised crime, a European Network (informal) has been created by the heads of Central Organised Services and Investigation of Drug-Related Crime in order to improve cooperation at both a tactical and strategic level, to design common actions and pursue a holistic approach.


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