European illicit drugs market worth over €30bn per year

The colossal amount was highlighted in the latest report, presented by EU agencies

The illicit drugs market in the European Union is worth a colossal €30bn per year, with experts believing this could be only the top of the iceberg, news wires reported citing a report, presented last Tuesday. The cocaine trade is driving much of the increase as a result of record production levels in South America and record seizures in the EU.

The EU Drugs Market Report 2019, compiled by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and Europol, the EU's respective drugs and police agencies, said production estimates for cocaine and seizures of the drug in Europe were at “record levels”. The two agencies have joined forces to provide their third state-of-the art overview of the European illicit drug market. The report covers trends along the supply chain from production and trafficking to distribution and sales. It describes how the drug market has wide-ranging impacts on both health and security and how a holistic approach is crucial for effective drug control policies.

According to the report, Colombian and Italian organised crime groups traditionally played a central role in the trafficking and distribution of cocaine but that increasingly other groups, including Albanian, British, Dutch, French, Irish, Moroccan, Serbian, Spanish and Turkish, were becoming more significant. The report says the €30bn estimate includes minimum valuations for the following drugs as follows: cannabis market worth €11.6bn; cocaine market worth €9.1bn; heroin market worth €7.4bn; amphetamine market worth €1bn; and MDMA (ecstasy) market worth €500m.

“Organised crime groups are quick to seize new opportunities for financial gain and are increasingly exploiting technological and logistical innovations to expand their activities across international borders,” Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said, while presenting the report's findings.

“This report is a clear wake-up call for policymakers to address the rapidly growing drug market, which is increasingly global, joined-up and digitally enabled. Hyper production of drugs, within and beyond EU borders, is leading to high availability of natural and synthetic substances. This means that consumers now have access to a diverse range of highly potent and pure products at affordable prices,” EMCDDA Director Alexis Goosdeel added.

The report highlights the increasing importance of Europe, both as a target and drug-producing region, and shows how the violence and corruption, long seen in traditional drug-producing countries, are now increasingly evident within the EU. Among the wide-ranging consequences of the drug market presented in the analysis are its negative impacts on society (e.g. gang violence, drug-related homicide) and the strain on public institutions and governance. The drug market's links to wider criminal activity (e.g. human trafficking, terrorism) are also explored, along with its negative repercussions on the legal economy.

“Drugs are now more accessible to European consumers, often via social media and the internet. The report proves once again that the illicit drug market remains a threat to the health and security of our citizens. Law enforcement needs to tackle this development and that is why we are investing heavily in supporting drug-related investigations in Europe,” Europol Executive Director Catherine De Bolle stressed.

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