Europeans, South Americans gather in Hamburg amid spiraling drug crime

A ship arrives at the port of Hamburg, Germany
A ship arrives at the port of Hamburg, Germany Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Jack Schickler
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Cocaine seized in the major European port tripled over five years, the German interior ministry said.


European ministers are meeting with South American counterparts today (7 May) in Hamburg, Germany, as Europe faces up to spiraling drug-related violence.

Major European ports are clubbing together after the European Commission described a surge in cocaine imports as one of the most serious security threats facing the continent.

“We must make our deep-sea ports so safe that they can no longer be gateways for tons of cocaine,” German interior minister Nancy Faeser said in a post on X ahead of the meeting, calling for greater international cooperation against cartels.

The ministerial meeting includes representatives from Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain, as well as from EU police agency Europol and South America, the source of much of Europe’s cocaine imports.

The European Ports Alliance was set up in October by the Commission as part of its plans to counter rising organised crime.

It came after authorities seized 8 tonnes of cocaine in Rotterdam, the Netherlands in August – a record broken just two weeks later when authorities in Algeciras, Spain, took a 9.5 tonne haul.

Amounts of the drug seized in Hamburg, one of Europe’s busiest ports, rose threefold to reach nearly 44 tonnes in 2023, according to the German interior ministry.

That has been accompanied by a rise in gang-related violence, with victims including children – not to mention thousands of European drug users who have died from overdoses.

On Friday, Belgian interior minister Annelies Verlinden, interior minister of Belgium noted that some criminals were already changing behaviour to respond to tightened security, jettisoning illicit cargo from fishing boats before arriving at the port of Antwerp.

In February, Costa Rica, which has become a major hub for drugs headed for Europe, turned to Brussels for help as it faces up to its own surge in trafficking-related murders.

In March, French police arrested more than 190 people as part of a vast anti-drug sting.

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