Belgium and the Netherlands are at the very centre of the traffic of cocaine in Europe, according to the latest report by Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency.
The cocaine market is becoming more competitive and also more violent, the Cocaine Insights Report report, compiled in conjunction with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said.
The evolution of the European drugs market has led to fragmentation of organised criminal networks. Where one network once had to source its drugs from another, not buyers can go straight to the source and organise their own distribution.
For example, Western Balkan criminal networks have established direct contacts with producers and secured a prominent place in the wholesale supply of cocaine.
At the same time, that development has led to increased competition between networks, and consequently to more violence.
The report stresses the importance of intervention at the source as a way to tackle the problem, as the supply chain is of primary importance. Much of that issue is out of the hands of Europol, but can still be managed with international cooperation under the aegis of UNODC.
The next best thing to turning off the flow in producer countries, however, would be to stop the drugs entering Europe, and this is where Belgium and the Netherlands are in prime position.
The ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam are of crucial importance in this. Both have an enormous throughput of container traffic, perfect for the worldwide shipping of drugs, and both have unparalleled road links across the continent.
If you were to sit down and plan the perfect drugs distribution network from scratch, either city would be ideal; both together in such proximity is simply perfect.
“Cocaine trafficking is one of the key security concerns we are facing in the EU right now. Nearly 40% of the criminal groups active in Europe are involved in drugs trafficking, and the cocaine trade generates multi-billion-euro in criminal profits,” said Julia Viedma, head of the operational and analysis centre at Europol.
“Understanding better the challenges we face will help us to counter more effectively the violent threat that cocaine trafficking networks represent to our communities.”
“The current dynamics of diversification and proliferation of cocaine supply channels, criminal actors and modalities are likely to continue, if left unchecked,” warned Chloé Carpentier, chief of the drug research section at UNODC.
Source: The Brussels Times