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European Commission

Cecilia Malmström

EU Commissioner for Home Affairs

Unveiling the changing face of the EU drug market

Launch of the EU Drug Markets Report/Brussels

31 January 2013

It is both a pleasure and an honour to be here today together with Wolfgang Götz, Director of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, EMCDDA, and Rob Wainwright, Director of Europol, to launch the first EU drug markets report.

Drug trafficking is a highly profitable illegal commercial activity. It is one of the most complex and invasive criminal phenomena of our times and a core business for many organised crime groups across the EU. It is a huge economic challenge with around 70% of the criminal proceeds of drug trafficking being laundered through the financial system into the licit economy.

The report which we are presenting today is the fruit of a joint cooperation between Europol and EMCDDA, the two leading EU agencies working on drug issues in Europe and which are under my responsibility. 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.

The report has drawn together an unparalleled amount of information about the structure and operation of European drug markets and placed this information within the broader context of an understanding of the drugs phenomenon.

This new analysis allows us to draw some very important conclusions which have clear implications for EU policies and actions. As the report shows, globalisation and technology have transformed the modern European drug market and we are now faced with new challenges in addressing a more innovative, joined up, and fast moving market. It is a market which is quick in identifying opportunities, exploiting weaknesses and responding to countermeasures.

Multi commodity trafficking has become more common. Drug trafficking routes have diversified with drugs moving through complex channels. The use of legitimate transportation options has also become increasingly frequent with the opportunities offered by a global market where goods and services are moving quicker and quicker.

The European drug problem is moving into a new phase: substances and patterns that have characterised the European drug market for the last 30 years now have to share the stage with a wide range of newer substances and behaviours.

The Internet provides a rapid and secure means of communication for both consumers and criminals. It is also now developing as a virtual marketplace. The means that new trends are global and diffuse faster than before.

New psychoactive substances are being developed and marketed at an ever quicker pace and this is a global challenge for drug control policies. Increasing sophistication is seen in the production of synthetic drugs, often now taking place close to consumers within the EU, using more diverse and often unregulated source chemicals.

Illegal drug producers are operating via mobile production units that can be easily installed in the back of a truck, or even in a trailer and which can be set up in a few hours after which production can start. The introduction of mobile production units has increased the mobility of production. The low cost and short time required to set up a professional production unit, plus the use of timing devices, reduce the time required for the producer to be physically present during the production process.

Co-operation at EU level is crucial against this backdrop. Let me give you a concrete example: in early 2012 "Operation Fire", coordinated by Europol led to extensive investigation by European law enforcement authorities.

During the operational phase of the investigation, 30 kg of amphetamine were seized in Sweden and 3 suspects arrested as well as 2 in Germany and 1 in the Netherlands. In addition, cooperation with Bulgarian authorities led to the arrest of 3 members of the organised crime network and the dismantling of 3 illegal synthetic drug production facilities.

Cannabis is also increasingly produced within the EU, using intensive measures and with increasing collateral damage resulting from violent and other crimes.

An estimated 2 500 tonnes of cannabis are consumed every year in the EU and Norway, corresponding to a retail value of 18-30 billion Euros. The largest markets for cannabis resin are estimated to be Italy, Spain and France, and for cannabis herb the United Kingdom and Germany.

Cannabis cultivation techniques have advanced and indoor cultivation spread, reducing the demand for imported products.

Domestic cannabis production is widespread throughout Europe, taking place both indoors and outdoors, and is increasing. The use of large-scale production facilities run by criminal groups, like the one illustrated in the picture, is also increasing

What we are faced with today is a very different kind of marketplace, influenced by new technologies in communication and production and global trends in demand and supply. Drug markets are evolving and so must our response.

We need to keep pace with these new developments and adapt our policies and responses to this reality. This analysis makes it clear that our responses must be equally innovative and joined up.

National measures, however robust, will simply not be sufficient if implemented in isolation.

Critically, our future success will depend on ensuring that our policies are based on sound analysis, that our law enforcement is grounded in intelligence, and that Europe’s efforts are united and coordinated.

The good cooperation between Europol and EMCDDA is an important step in this direction.


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