EU agencies have warned that Europe is consolidating itself as a center for the production and transshipment of cocaine for the entire world, as well as being an important consumer market. European authorities have seized a record amount of 214.6 tons of cocaine in Europe in 2020, with Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands accounting for three quarters of the total recovered.
Cocaine is the second most consumed drug in Europe, only surpassed by cannabis, with millions of consumers and sales of some 10.5 billion euros in 2020, according to a joint EU report prepared by the police agency Europol and the anti-drug agency EMCDDA. Around 3.5 million Europeans between the ages of 15 and 64 admitted having used this drug in the last year, and 14 million Europeans had done so at some point in their lives.
The increase in production in South America and the expansion of the capacity to process the crude drug in Europe are driving the growth of the market. The appearance of new types of smokable cocaine could increase growth and health risks. “More is also being produced within Europe, indicating changes in the region’s role in the international cocaine trade,” the report said.
Belgium is becoming the epicenter of cocaine in Europe. It is the EU country that seized the most cocaine in 2020, with 70 tons, and one of the main sources of coca paste production along with the Netherlands (with 49 tons seized in 2020) and Spain (with 56 tons seized in 2021).
In a report presented by Europol and the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), it is reflected that, for the fourth consecutive year, a record amount of cocaine has been seized in Europe. Most arrive in sea containers, with cargo entry points diversifying and larger amounts seized at ports in Eastern Europe and Turkey.
Cocaine imported into Europe from South America is increasingly being re-exported to other parts of the world, especially the Middle East and Asia, making Europe “a key transshipment point for drugs from elsewhere,” according to the report.
Methamphetamine, also on the rise
Although it remains well below cocaine, the methamphetamine market is also growing. Its trends are changing, as it was traditionally produced in the Czech Republic for consumption in Eastern Europe, but new data points to a high demand in Eastern Europe, mainly Belgium.
“There is now growing concern about production facilities located in Belgium and the Netherlands, where methamphetamine may be produced on a considerably larger scale,” the report states.
Europe is one of the world’s leading producers of methamphetamine, and European producers are increasingly collaborating with Mexican criminal groups to refine production processes, EU agencies have warned.
The number of seizures of this drug between 2010 and 2020 doubled from 3,000 to 6,200, and the quantities seized increased by 477% to 2.2 tons in 2020, the year in which 215 laboratories were dismantled by nine EU countries.
In light of the results, the director of the EMCDDA, Alexis Goosdeel, explained that Europe faces a “growing threat” stemming from a “more diversified and dynamic drug market, driven by closer collaboration between European criminal organizations and international” and urged to be “even more sensitive to market signals” and “invest in greater coordinated action” at the international level.
Along the same lines, the executive director of Europol, Catherine De Bolle, warned that the illegal drug trade “continues to dominate serious crime and organized crime in the EU”. She takes into account that about 40% of the criminal networks notified to this organization that operate on an international scale “are active in drug trafficking.” “The fight against this illegal trade is a fundamental priority for Europol and for the EU,” she said, convinced that the analysis presented this Friday is “crucial to formulating effective police responses.”
From Public from Spain. Special for Page 12.