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Record quantities of cocaine seized in Europe, EU agencies warn

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By Euronews
Cocaine weighing some 5.2 tons and a seized yacht are displayed for the media at a Portuguese Navy base in Almada, south of Lisbon, on Oct. 18, 2021.
Cocaine weighing some 5.2 tons and a seized yacht are displayed for the media at a Portuguese Navy base in Almada, south of Lisbon, on Oct. 18, 2021.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Armando Franca

Record quantities of cocaine are being seized in Europe as the market expands, two European agencies warned on Friday.

More than 214.6 tonnes of cocaine were seized in Europe in 2020 -- an increase of 6% compared to 2019 and a record high for the fourth consecutive year.

Unprecedented trafficking levels have led to "historically high availability", Europol and the EU drugs agency warned in an EU drugs market analysis.

They also said that while most cocaine manufacturing takes place in Colombia, Bolivia and Peru, cocaine processing occurs in Europe, particularly in Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands.

Those three countries also accounted for nearly three-quarters of the total cocaine seized in Europe.

Large quantities of the drug were also seized by Italy, France, Germany and Portugal, the agencies warned, adding that chemical precursors used in cocaine production have also been seized.

"Our new analyses show that we are now facing a growing threat from a more diverse and dynamic drug market, that is driven by closer collaboration between European and international criminal organisations," said Alexis Goosdeel, European Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) director.

"This has resulted in record levels of drug availability, rising violence and corruption, and greater health problems."

Quantities of other drugs on the rise as well

The agencies added that the entry points for cocaine shipments were changing with more seizures in Eastern Europe and Turkey.

Meanwhile, another drug, methamphetamine, has become increasingly available in Europe despite playing a small role in the European drug market, the agencies warned.

The quantities of meth seized in the EU increased by 477% in 2020 to 2.2 tonnes, the two agencies said.

While historically, methamphetamine production occurred in small laboratories in the Czech Republic, there is growing concern about production facilities in Belgium and the Netherlands. The drug's use has also been spreading in Europe, they added.

The agencies warned overall that expanding drug markets would increase violence and corruption.

"The expanding EU cocaine market has brought with it a rise in homicides, kidnappings and intimidation, with violence spilling over to those outside the drug market [such as] lawyers, government officials, [and] journalists," the agencies said in a statement.