DRUGS AND CRIME TRENDS IN EUROPE

By the United Nations office on drugs and crime
Vienna 29/04/2004

DRUG TRAFFICKING: TARGET EUROPE
Europe remains a destination of choice for international drug traffickers. The multidrug
trafficking affects both accession States and the current EU Members.
Illicit manufacture and trafficking in ATS in Europe, measured in terms of the
volumes seized, increased more than 40% in 2002 with total seizures of 9.5 tons.
Trafficking in ecstasy alone increased by 68%, with 4.7 tons seized in the continent.

Cocaine trafficking has, in the last years, increased substantially in some accession as
well as neighbouring countries, including Poland (422 kg seized in 2002), Slovenia
(55 kg), Hungary (58 kg) and Bulgaria (36 kg). In 2003, Estonia intercepted 30 kg of
cocaine (the largest volume ever intercepted in that country).
Illicit trafficking in cannabis increased in Western Europe, and declined in Eastern
Europe in 2002. The largest seizures of the acceding countries were reported by
Slovenia. (Even larger seizures were reported by Romania and Bulgaria). Lithuania
and Latvia, in contrast, have registered only relatively small reported seized.

Illicit trafficking in heroin, which almost entirely originates in Afghanistan and
transits through countries along the Balkan route and increasingly through countries
along the Northern route, continues to be a major drug-related challenge affecting
most accession countries and current EU members.
Despite declining seizures in the former in the last two years, heroine seizures in
countries along those two routes amounted to 10.3 tons (5.0 tons Central Asia, 2.6
tons from Turkey, 2.7 tons from Eastern Europe, including 0.7 tons from EU
accession countries), compared with 9.9 tons seized by countries in Western Europe.
In 2002, heroin seizures increased substantially in Hungary and Ukraine, but more
moderately in Poland and Albania. The Czech Republic and Bulgaria registered a
decline.
In 2002, heroin seizures in the 10 EU accession countries accounted for 7% of the
overall heroin seizures made by countries forming part of the EU-25 as of May 2004.
For amphetamines the proportion was 5%. For other drugs the proportion was around
1%. Since the population of the ten EU accession countries is equivalent to 16% of
the total population of the EU-25, clearly up to now, the bulk of trafficking and
interceptions was in the current 15 member states which thus far also account for the
majority of drug abuse.

The key to success for improved drug and crime control results is strengthening
cooperation amongst law enforcement authorities of accession States and current EU
Member States. This was best demonstrated by the recent largest ever single heroin
seizure in Austria in February 2004 (some 113 kg). The heroin was transported in a
truck with Romanian licence plate, coming from Hungary and destined to France. The
Austrian authorities acted on intelligence provided by the German Bundeskriminalamt
(BKA).
UNODC has been assisting countries along the Balkan Route as of the early nineties
in: (a) amending their legislation to conform with international conventions; (b)
strengthen law enforcement capacity through assistance to key border crossings, and
through creation of new operational and analytical structures; (c) identifying the
nature and extent of drug abuse and related HIV/AIDS, and supporting the launch of national prevention and treatment programmes.

This assistance will continue to help new member countries sustain and further
improve new structures, and increase regional enforcement cooperation. UNODC will
also shift focus on cooperating with pre-accession countries in their action to meet
accession criteria in the area of drug and crime control, by supporting the
development of new legislation and of adequate operational standards. Finally, the
increased support to countries neighboring the enlarged EU borders – also within the
Paris Pact – will be critical for the success of EU efforts against international drug
trafficking, related organized crime and corruption, in particular the threat posed by
Afghan heroin on the entire region.
DRUG ABUSE: MAJOR HEALTH PROBLEMS
Drug abuse in most of the ten acceding countries is increasing, though starting from
levels generally lower than in EU-15. Major increases are reported for cannabis and
heroin but there is also an increase in the abuse of ATS and ecstasy in particular.
Cocaine abuse is not yet widespread but there are some indications of its abuse.
The abuse of drugs is related to an overall increase in the abuse of psychoactive
substances (including alcohol and tobacco). This common trend is particularly evident
among young people, a possible indicator of future abuse among the general
population with enormous health and social costs.
Major public health problems already exist with the increase in the abuse of heroin
through injection. Some of acceding countries of Eastern Europe have witnessed in
the past decade a rapid increase in the HIV epidemic and this has been mainly driven
by injecting drug use. In particular, the increase in HIV infection among injecting
drug users (IDUs) in Estonia and Latvia should be noted – with the infection
spreading at an alarming rate, with prevalence rates at up to 13% and 12%
respectively in national samples of IDUs. The situation in most other accession states
is not explosive but there is a potential for rapid rises in HIV infection among IDUs if
preventive measures are not taken. The infection rates for hepatitis B and C among
IDUs are also high.
This problem is rendered more severe by the lack of treatment services and – in some
cases – by the stigma (including criminal records) attached to drug abuse. There is
the need to create appropriate services and reach out to drug abusers, encourage behavioural change among IDUs and to prevent high-risk injecting and sexual
behaviour.
Measures to address the drug abuse problem need to be coherent and balanced, with
emphasis on prevention and treatment.
The following overview of trends in the abuse of main drug types in the period 1998-
2002 in Europe is based on responses received from Member States through part II of
the annual reports questionnaire.

Cannabis
In the five-year period 1998-2002, cannabis remained the most abused drug worldwide. Also in Europe the overall trend in cannabis abuse, as reported to the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), is clearly increasing. Cannabis abuse has shown a
consistent increasing trend, following the increase in cannabis prevalence during the 1990s within the European Union. While in some countries cannabis abuse has recently stabilized, in others, especially where prevalence was relatively low, it has increased. In addition to increasing trends in use of cannabis, there is also evidence of increasing social acceptance ofcannabis experimentation among young people in the Central and Eastern European countries – atrend similar to the one noted in Western Europe, where cannabis ranks second after heroin in terms of the number of
users seeking treatment. Opioids – In Europe, opioids abuse increased slightly over the period 1998-2002,while the injecting of heroin has been stable or decreased. Estimates available for “problem drug use” suggest that the abuse of opioids increased in Western Europe after the mid-1990s, but the trend has stabilized since the period 1998-2000, even
declining in some Western European countries. Prevalence estimates of “problemdrug use”, primarily the abuse of opioids, in most Western European countries ranged between 2 and 10 cases per 1,000 among members of the general population aged 15-
64. In the Central and Eastern European countries, most of the increases in “problem drug use” in the 1990s, and especially after the mid-1990s, were attributable to the abuse of heroin, which is currently the main drug of concern in every country. Many of those increases were accompanied by increases in injecting drug abuse, although smoking heroin is common in Poland and is also reported among young abusers in some other countries. In the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia, and perhaps in Bulgaria, it appears that the overall level of “problem drug use” may be stabilizing, while in Estonia, Latvia,
Lithuania, Poland and Romania, it seems to be increasing (inparticular in relation to heroinabuse). Increases in HIV infection among injecting drug users might be due to the increased availability of heroin in the region in the late 1990s, combined with low riskawareness among users and highrisk injecting behaviour. Early detection of new trends and emerging problems due to injecting drug use is of vital importance to allow timely responses to all bloodborne viruses, including HIV,
hepatitis B and C.
Cocaine

In Europe, the trend line for cocaine abuse has shown a consistent increase since 1998, with a tendency towards stabilization. This seems to be related to increased cocaine consumption mainly in Western Europe, while distinct geographical variations can be observed. In Eastern Europe, cocaine abuse is still at a level well below that of Western Europe. Cocaine appears to be most available in larger cities and in those areas with a relatively large number of abusers of other drugs. Like in Western Europe, drug abusers reveal a high level of recreational use of cocaine powderin social settings, i.e. “dance-goers” or “clubbers”. Although cocaine abuse among the general population remains low, in Europe
demand for treatment and deaths due to overdose need monitoring. Increased cocaine abuse is reported in Albania,
Bulgaria, Croatia, Lithuania and Poland. In Slovakia, the most recent reports indicate that the situation with regard to cocaine abuse is stable. In Hungary the situation is
stable and decreasing.

Amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS)

Throughout Europe, over the past few years there has been an increased abuse of ecstasy and amphetamines, in particular
among youth in urban areas, with rates (lifetime use among the adult population) ranging between 0.5 % and 5 %, the highest rates being among young adults. Despite earlier differences, East and West are now converging. While countries (especially in
Western Europe) that experienced strong increases in ATS abuse in the 1990s seem to be stabilizing or decreasing, recent information suggests that experimental and recreational use of “club drugs”, ecstasy in particular, is increasing in Central and Eastern European countries. High lifetime prevalence rate has been found among 16- year-olds for example, 6 per cent in Latvia and 4 per cent in the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Slovenia.
ATS: PRODUCTION SHIFTS FROM WEST TO EAST
Europe is one of three ATS global hot-spots, together with North America (for
methamphetamine and ecstasy) and Asia (mainly methamphetamine).
Significant changes are occurring in Europe. After Netherlands and Belgium
(together), the most important source country are now Poland, followed by Estonia
and Lithuania, and then Bulgaria. This confirms an underlying shift of operations
eastwards that started a few years ago.
A decade after the start of its shift eastwards, the amphetamine market now appears to
also have matured in Eastern Europe, where current abuse trends are similar to those
in the west.

Over the period 2000-2002, more than 70% of all reported clandestine ecstasy
laboratory seizures in Europe were reported from the Netherlands, and 15% from
Belgium. The two next prominent sources of ecstasy were the UK (8%) and Germany (2%). Over the 1992-2002 period, seizures of ecstasy laboratories and/or “ATS
laboratories including ecstasy laboratories” were also reported from Spain, Norway,
Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Hungary and the Ukraine. The EU accession countries
Estonia, Lithuania, and Hungary have been frequently mentioned as source countries
for ecstasy.
Although few of the 45 to 60 “commercial” large scale clandestine ATS laboratories
that are seized in the European Union every year are identified in Eastern Europe,
similar to the spread of clandestine amphetamine manufacture a decade ago, an
eastward shift of clandestine ecstasy manufacture is still under way.
Most recently, there has been stabilisation of amphetamine use in east Europe,
reflecting the situation three or four years ago in west Europe; for example, lifetime
prevalence of amphetamine use among 16-year-olds in Czech Republic was 1.8% in
1995, peaked at 5.5% in 1999, and has now fallen to 4.2% (2003). Nevertheless,
there are continued strong increases with availability and use of ecstasy, especially
amongst young people. The highest lifetime prevalence of ecstasy use among 16-
year-olds in accession countries is in Czech Republic (8.3%: 2003 data), followed by
Latvia (6%), Lithuania and Slovenia (4% in each) [latest data 1999]; with the
exception of UK and Ireland, these are the highest prevalences in Europe. Most young
people start to use ecstasy at an early age.
Historically, the control on chemicals have been much tighter in Eastern European
countries, than in the West. There are some justifiable concerns now in accession
countries that joining the EU may lead to a weakening of their existing import/export
controls for precursor chemicals (this as a result of the requirement under EC law to
harmonize all controls throughout the region). For example, after 1 May, accession
states will not be allowed to exercise any stronger controls than those laid down in EC
regulations, even though such controls exist now in domestic legislations (national
chemical controls will cease to exist after 1 May). EC is acting on those concerns,
and has taken steps to strengthen import controls throughout EU, however weak as
they are at present. New EU legislation, however, will only enter force in August
2005.
There are new challenges in countries to the east of the enlarged European Union. In
Belarus and Russia, for example, ATS are problematic, but the extent and dynamics
of the problem are little known/uncertain. In the Ukraine, ATS and precursors are
manufactured illicitly, but also new synthetic drugs, including fentanyls, extremely
potent drugs that act like heroin. It is not known where the main market for such
drugs is, but already fatalities have been reported in western Europe.
The move of amphetamine manufacture from West to East European countries,
namely Poland, and later to the Baltic States, is well-documented, and a result of
increased enforcement efforts in Western Europe. More recently, however, the first
ever ATS laboratory seizure has been reported from Serbia and Montenegro. That
laboratory, one of Europe’s largest, was dismantled at numerous locations in and
around Belgrade. Other Balkan countries may yet emerge as new sources for
clandestine amphetamine and/or ecstasy manufacture; ATS precursors have been
seized in, or smuggled through, the region in the past. Bulgaria continues to report
clandestine manufacture of ATS. The approach to tackling the pan-European problem of production and supply of
ATS/synthetic drugs should focus not only on where drugs are manufactured, or on
cross-border interdiction activities, but also on the broader aspects of organized crime,
money laundering and chemical control and drug enforcement as a whole.

ORGANIZED CRIME: LOOKING FOR ‘NEW MARKETS’
EU enlargement is likely to increase the activities of organised crime groups, attracted
by the new markets. There is already the evidence of the growing degree and
geographic reach of western European organised crime networks, with increased
focus on accession states.
In crime, East will meet West. Organised syndicates from Poland and the Baltic
States have been active beyond national borders. In Germany, Polish organized crime
groups are the second largest non-German organized crime group after Turkish
groups. Most EU and accession organized crime groups engage in a range of criminal
activities, from commodity smuggling, counterfeiting of currency and other goods.
Drug trafficking continues to be one of the most lucrative activities, originally in
Western EU but progressively so in the accession countries. Money laundering, credit
card and other financial fraud, human trafficking and the facilitation of illegal
immigration have been known in pre-accession States, with organised crime groups in
Bulgaria and Romania extremely active.
The activities of organised crime groups, along with their increasing professionalism,
create a continuing challenge for European law enforcement agencies.
While Hungary and Slovenia are the only accession states that have not ratified the
UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime, overall, the legislative
framework for countering organised crime in these states, may be less problematic
than actual implementation. Strengthening of judicial and cross-border law
enforcement cooperation is essential.
The use of corruption by organised crime and their influence on the judicial and
executive branches is perhaps the gravest challenge, particularly in pre-accession
states.

TRAFFICKING IN HUMAN BEINGS: ALL COUNTRIES AFFECTED
All of the countries, rich and poor alike, are affected by the crime of trafficking in
human beings. Some countries are countries of origin, others transit or destination
countries and some are origin, transit and destination at the same time. As far as the
region of Eastern and Central Europe is concerned, the region as a whole is very much
a transit region and a region of origin, and to some extent also a destination for
victims of human trafficking. Victims are predominantly women and girls, who are
trafficked mainly for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Victims are, though, also
forced to work as domestics or in agriculture. It is true for all of the ten acceding countries that victims are primarily women andchildren and that the primary purpose of trafficking from and through these countries is the sexual exploitation of the victims.
Four of the ten countries are parties to Convention against Transnational Organised
Crime and Trafficking Protocol2: Cyprus, Lithuania, Malta and Poland have signed
and ratified the Convention and the Protocol. Estonia, Latvia and Slovakia have
signed and ratified the Convention and signed and not yet ratified the Protocol. The Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovenia have signed but not yet ratified both the
Convention and the Protocol.

UNODC initiated technical cooperation projects in some of the countries, i.e. in
Slovakia, Poland and the Czech Republic. In some of the countries UNODC has
established partnerships for its anti-human trafficking Public Service Announcements,
to add national victim-hotlines to the video spots and for the cooperation in further
awareness-raising campaigns.
 

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