A report published in May 2019 by The Global initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime, a civil observatory to combat organised crime in south east Europe, offers a fairly comprehensive analysis of the reality of organised crime in the west of the Balkans and tries to detect its clusters or hot spots.
The report draws from the premise that there are three fundamental factors that favour this type of crime:
- Economic vulnerability. Very high in this area, with groups of the population with an unemployment rate of over 50%.
- Weak or fractionated and closed off political systems. The succession of serious and violent conflicts that took place in that region meant that the institutional network created with international support (imposition in some cases) does not have the necessary strength or authority to guarantee acceptable levels of rule of law. Moreover, the range of institutional organigrams do not relate to each other appropriately (nor collaborate). Clear examples are the police forces of the republics of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbian-Kosovar institutions and the Albano Kosovar ones and more clearly the institutions of Serbia with the Kosovar ones. This means that there are no solid consolidated powers in large territorial areas. This factor and the previous one facilitate links between businesses, crime and political power.
- Geographic location. This location must be understood in two ways:
- With regard to road and communication structures. Cities located on crossings of motorways or important roads, and railway junctions, allow for more fluid and easy circulation of the products that are the object of organised crime activity.
- With regard to the proximity to or distance from areas with the products that are traditionally an objective for International crime activities. In this case, the region is on the heroin route between Afghanistan and Western Europe, and is a good point of entry for those who are fleeing from misery and war in Africa and the Middle East and for the weapons that these conflicts serve to market.
Drawing on these factors, the report not only goes on to place cities and regions that are highly likely to become hot spots of organised crime, but also those that have also been shown to be hot spots in practice.
The specific places identified by the report are, among others:
- Subotica (Serbia): drug and tobacco trafficking (before the construction of the wall by Hungary, people trafficking).
- Vrsac (Serbia): tobacco and heroin trafficking.
- Tuzla (Bosnia-Herzegovina). Trafficking of people, livestock, wood, drugs, cars, money and clothes with false labels.
- The Trebinje region (Bosnia-Herzegovina). Trafficking of drugs, tobacco and people.
- Rozaje and surroundings (Montenegro). Drugs, people, tobacco, medicine and weapons.
- Kulla/Kula (between Kosovo and Montenegro). Trafficking of tobacco and drugs.
- Durrës (Albania). It is the country’s biggest port and the main gateway for goods arriving from Latin America. For this reason, it has a relevant role in importin cocaine from Colombia.
- Vlorë (Albania) the country’s second port, a point of departure for cannabis produced nationally and of many criminals that head for Italy and Spain.
- The ports of Bar, Budva and Kotor (Montenegro). These ports are famous for importing cocaine, and, for example, tobacco smuggling although it is also produced there. There has recently been a war to death between gangs of drug traffickers, with many casualties.
- Sarajevo and the neighbouring region (Bosnia-Herzegovina). High rates of theft and vehicle trafficking. Manifest inefficiency on the part of the police to detain the criminals involved.
- Prístina (Kosovo). Drug trafficking and organised falsification of public title deeds.
- Skopje (Macedonia). Crucial focal point for drug trafficking both for the north-south and east-west.
The report concludes by stating that this region is victim of its own demographic location as well as economic and political instability. The authors of the report, however, seem to detect a certain tiredness of corruption and organised crime among the population as it has caused somewhat violent public protests.