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US State Department publishes drug trafficking report

Balkan countries remain major transit points for Afghan heroin

03. March 2010. | 06:04

Source: EMportal

According to the report, Albania, Bulgaria, Kosovo-Metohija, Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina are used by narcotics traffickers to move Afghan heroin from Central Asia to destinations around Western Europe. To a lesser extent FYRMacedonia, Romania and Montenegro are also considered as staging posts for traffickers.

The US State Department International Strategy for Narcotics Control report, says that the Balkan countries remain major transit points for Afghan heroin, while the war against traffickers is hampered by corruption and weak state institutions.

According to the report, Albania, Bulgaria, Kosovo-Metohija, Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina are used by narcotics traffickers to move Afghan heroin from Central Asia to destinations around Western Europe. To a lesser extent FYRMacedonia, Romania and Montenegro are also considered as staging posts for traffickers.

The region's poorly financed, poorly managed and under-equipped police, border security and customs controls, make it an attractive stop on the smuggling route for traffickers moving shipments into Western Europe.

Albania, apart from being on the heroin transit route, is also an important cannabis producer for markets in Europe. The cultivation is largely carried out in the more remote mountain regions of the country that the government has difficulty accessing, with the most likely final destinations being Italy and Greece.

Bosnia is considered one of the main transit countries in the region for drug trafficking due to its strategic location along historic Balkan smuggling routes.

Weak state institutions, lack of personnel in counternarcotics units, and poor cooperation among the responsible authorities account for Bosnia’s vulnerability.

“The narcotics trade remains an integral part of the activities of foreign and domestic organised crime figures that operate, according to anecdotal evidence, with the tacit acceptance and sometimes active collusion of corrupt public officials,” the report notes.

Apart from being an important transit country for heroin and cocaine, Bulgaria is also a producer of illicit narcotics, the report says. With its geographic position on Balkan transit routes, Bulgaria is vulnerable to illegal flows of drugs, people, contraband, and money.

“Heroin distributed in Europe moves through Bulgaria from Southwest Asia and via the Northern Balkan route, while chemicals used for making heroin move through Bulgaria to Turkey and the Middle East,” the report reads.

As in Albania and Bosnia, corruption and effective implementation of legal and structural reforms remain the mains challenges for the Bulgarian government in its war against drugs.

Kosovo is the only territory in the region that has not yet become a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention because its declaration of independence on February 17, 2008, has been widely contested by Serbia, and its formidable ally in the UN Security Council, Russia.

Croatia, like other Balkan countries, is also considered as a transit point through which narcotics are smuggled on the way from the production countries to consumer countries. However, while smuggling occurs both overland and by sea, in contrast to elsewhere in the region the most significant seizures, particularly for cocaine, are connected to sea transport.

Accordnig to the report, the three remaining countries in the region, Romania, FYRMacedonia and Montenegro, are not valued as major transit points from drugs coming from Central Asia; however they have recorded sporadic seizures of illicit drugs.

Montenegro in particular, is used by organised crime groups as a transit country for cannabis from Albania and Kosovo, and smaller amounts of other narcotics from the Middle East and Latin America, destined for the western Balkans and Western Europe.

Though the local narcotics market in the region is small, the report notes that domestic consumption of drugs is growing and the drugs that are transited through the region are fueling the growth.

Serbia is a major transit country for narcotics and other drugs along the Balkan smuggling corridor from Central Asia to Central and WEurope, and a relatively small amount of smuggled narcotics remains in Serbia, it is said in the annual International Narcotics Control Strategy Report of the US SDepartment.

Heroin from Central Asia accounts for the majority of the drug trafficking - experts estimate that over 80 tons of the drug travels along this route from Afghanistan every year, it is stated in the report.

Large amounts of marijuana flow from Albania through Montenegro and onward through Serbia to WEurope, and Serbian organized groups have increased trafficking of cocaine directly from South America to WEurope, although some of this cocaine comes overland to Serbia.

Serbian authorities assess that a relatively small amount of smuggled narcotics remains in Serbia for domestic consumption.

Porous borders and corruption are among Serbia's main problems, while the country has made progress in cooperation with its neighbors, South American countries and the US.

In the section on Kosovo-Metohija, experts noted that the Pristina authorities are facing a growing domestic narcotics market, porous borders, corruption and limited resources, which is why the counternarcotics branch is given low priority.


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