EU agencies blame globalisation and technology for rise in drug trafficking

EU agencies blame globalisation and technology for rise in drug trafficking
Copyright Reuters
Copyright Reuters
By Lauren Chadwick
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Europeans spend billions of euros on drugs each year, making it a "major source of income for organised crime", Europol and the EU's drugs agency said in a joint report.


Drug trafficking in Europe is increasing due to globalisation and technology, Europol and the EU drugs agency warned in a new report.

In a joint dossier, they found Europeans spend at least €30 billion on drugs per year.

That's up €6 billion from the last report which was released in 2016 and makes the market "a major source of income for organised crime groups".

Roughly 39% of that money was spent on cannabis, followed by 31% on cocaine, and 25% on heroin.

"Drugs are now more accessible to European consumers, often via social media and the internet. Today’s report proves once again that the illicit drug market remains a threat to the health and security of our citizens," said Dimitris Avramopoulos, European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship.

The report warns that organised crime groups can exploit a "more globally connected and technologically enabled" market.

Messaging apps, social media, and "darknet markets" have all facilitated drug sales, the agencies said.

"This report is a clear wake-up call for policymakers to address the rapidly growing drug market, which is increasingly global, joined-up and digitally enabled," said Alexis Goosdeel, the director of the drugs agency, known officially as the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction.

An increase in trafficking

The EU drugs agency warned earlier this year of an "Uberisation" of the drugs market including facilitating drug trafficking on the internet.

Cocaine seized by authorities doubled in 2017 to 140 tonnes - up from 71 tonnes a year earlier, for instance.

"Europol sees a clear increase in trafficking activity through our operational work and the intelligence contributions we receive from EU Member States," Europol's executive director Catherine De Bolle warned upon release of the drugs market report.

"Law enforcement needs to tackle this development and that is why we are investing heavily in supporting drug-related investigations in Europe."

European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction/ EU Drug Markets Report 2019
This graphic from the EU Drug Markets Report 2019 presents an estimate for the EU drug market, based on 2017 data.European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction/ EU Drug Markets Report 2019

Drug use in the EU

The report also provided a look at drug use.

An estimated 25 million Europeans between the ages of 15 and 64 have used cannabis in the past year, the report found. Four million Europeans in the same age group say they have used cocaine in the past year.

Cocaine is mainly coming from Latin America with more recorded seizures of the drug and the EU "emerging as a transit area" for other markets.

Opioids (mainly heroin), meanwhile, have roughly 1.3 million users and are mainly trafficked from the Balkans.

Roughly 1.7 million Europeans have tried amphetamine or methamphetamine and some 2.6 million have tried ecstasy the report said, even though those drugs make up just 5% of the drug market.

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