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Report: New worrying trends in drugs market

31 January 2013

Police discover a synthetic drugs factory. Photo: Europol

Europe is entering an important new era in the supply and demand for illicit drugs — a development which is challenging current policies and responses. This is according to the first joint EU drug markets report from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and Europol. The two EU agencies have joined forces to provide the first strategic analysis of the European illicit drug market in its entirety.

The report unveils the ‘changing face of organised crime in Europe’: while, historically, the EU drug market has focused on specific drugs trafficked by specialised operators along well-defined routes, the contemporary market is more ‘fluid’, with new routes and multi-substance consignments becoming more common.

"This timely report shows the increasingly joined-up nature of the modern European drug market, one of the most complex and invasive criminal phenomena of our times. Organised crime groups are now more likely to deal in many substances at once and are more likely to join forces. Drug trafficking is also diversifying, both in terms of the complexity of the routes chosen and the drug types moved along them. This all calls for increased cooperation at EU level. National measures are simply insufficient, no matter how robust they are. By combining insights from the EMCDDA’s monitoring of Europe’s drug phenomenon with Europol’s operational understanding of trends in organised crime, the analysis offered by this report is unique", said EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström, presenting the findings at a press conference Thursday.

According to the report, globalisation is an important driver of developments, with more countries now used as transit, storage or production points. Furthermore, the Internet is having a profound impact, both as communication tool and online marketplace. But innovation is also seen in the area of production: the EU is cited as a key ‘source of expertise and know how’ regarding intensive cannabis cultivation, synthetic drug production and cocaine concealment.

Other findings of the report include the connections between cocaine and cannabis resin trafficking networks, the increasing importance of Africa as a transit and storage area, and how crime gangs based in North-West Europe play a pivotal role in the distribution of virtually all types of drug across the EU. Among the action points proposed are that law-enforcement actors, to a larger extent, should prioritise intelligence gathering on high-value individuals and high-profile criminal groups. Also, the speed of developments in the area of synthetic drugs means that Europe needs to scale up its early-warning capacity for new substances on the market.

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Read a summary or the report in its entirety. Also, watch Thursday's press conference with Commissioner Cecilia Malmström,  Europol Director Rob Wainwright and EMCDDA Director Wolfgang Götz, or download photos from the event. Police photos from joint operations, as well as case studies from around Europe, are also available.