The European Drug Monitoring Center has published a regional report on the use and distribution of narcotics in the Western Balkans. It was pointed out that the region is taking on an increasingly significant role in the distribution of drugs towards the European Union (EU), and the trends of drug use were emphasized.
The region of the Western Balkans is located at the crossroads of several main routes of drug trafficking, most often cannabis, cocaine, heroin and synthetic drugs. The report states that criminal networks from the Western Balkans have become key actors in the drug market in the EU.
So, the reason for this is, among other things, the geographical position of the Western Balkans, which is especially suitable for heroin, therefore the well-known Balkan route for heroin passes through this region. The bad internal legal situation, which especially relates to corruption, is also one of the reasons why the drug trade is “flourishing” in the region.
Some criminal networks from the Western Balkans have adopted a new business model of direct involvement in the production of cannabis within the EU. Their presence has been recorded in a number of EU countries, primarily related to closed production facilities. Cannabis cultivation patterns in the region are changing and diversifying. In Albania, significantly less cannabis is grown outdoors than in the past, while large-scale cannabis cultivation sites have been reported in other parts of the Western Balkans region.
According to the report, some countries of the Western Balkans stand out in particular for the number of criminal actors of drug trafficking among state officials, namely Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and Serbia. It is also pointed out that drug groups use corruption to enjoy protection from the state.
The opinion of the experts in the report describes that the use of drugs on social networks has been glamorized by celebrities, linking it to the lifestyle of the “rich”, and the profiles of several well-known criminals on social networks in BiH have attracted more than half a million followers.
Recent research into football hooliganism in the Western Balkans has suggested that some groups in Serbia, and to a lesser extent in BiH and North Macedonia, have connections or have been involved in the distribution and sale of drugs.
The current situation, indicated by a number of sources, is that criminal networks from BiH, Montenegro and Serbia are involved in a wide range of criminal activities, including the theft of cars and other luxury goods, while groups from Albania have gained a reputation for robbing luxury properties and cars in Western Europe.
One impression among experts is that the use and number of cocaine users has recently increased among the middle class, especially in the more affluent urban areas of Belgrade, Podgorica and Tirana and in resort areas in the region such as those on the Adriatic coast or ski resorts such as Jahorina in BiH.
In the previous year, seizures of amphetamines were carried out mainly in BiH, North Macedonia and Serbia. Of all countries in the region, Serbia reported the most MDMA seizures between 2017 and 2020, followed by BiH, Klix.ba reports.