Every year in autumn, The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) organises Reitox meeting – the European information network on drugs and drug addiction. The 8th Extended Reitox network meeting was held on 12 November in the EMCDDA premises in Lisbon, Portugal. It brought together representatives from circa 50 countries, including: the Heads of the 30 Reitox national focal points from the 28 EU Member States, Norway and Turkey; representatives from the 6 Western Balkan countries covered by the European Instrument for Pre-Accession Technical assistance project (IPA7) and representatives from 15 European Neighbouring Policy area countries.
This year’s meeting will be dedicated to the topic ‘New issues for monitoring’. The agenda included issues like Drug policy debates: how routine monitoring data used?, Introduction on new proposal of the UNODC Annual Reports Questionnaire (ARQ) and Cannabis: latest developments.
During the session on Prevention of infectious diseases, DPNSEE Executive Director Milutin Milošević presented Situation in the Western Balkan countries. Besides presenting the Network and briefly describing the type of data that are available to us, a detailed view on the situation in the Western Balkan countries was given including prevalence of HIV, HCV, HBV among people who inject drugs, provision of harm reduction services and access to treatment, barriers and challenges and relevant policies in the region.
Participation in the Reitox meeting was an excellent opportunity to present the potential of the Network for partnership and discuss modalities for further cooperation with EMCDDA and national drug agencies
Rather than focusing on illicit markets, flows of commodities or particular criminal groups, this report looks at places of interest: hotspots of organized crime in the Western Balkans. It looks at the characteristics of these hotspots, then provides a granular analysis of particular border crossings, intersections or regions of vulnerability. What makes these places particularly vulnerable? Why are they attractive to criminals? After discussing these questions, the report connects the dots between these locations to identify possible links and patterns that tell us more about the geography of crime in the region.
To contextualize these organized-crime hotspots, the report provides an overview of the current situation in the Western Balkans, as well as some general information on the main illicit flows. It then looks at hotspots close to border or (internal) boundary crossings.
The other main section of the report focuses on major intersections of organized crime in the Western Balkans – mostly bigger cities (particularly capitals), coastal towns and places where major highways intersect. Maps are provided to show the hotspots as well as key traffic arteries. Amid these assessments, the report takes a deeper dive into vulnerable locations, such as Sarajevo, three ports along the Montenegrin coast, northern Kosovo as well as the triangular region where North Macedonia meets south Serbia and Kosovo.
One key observation of this report, which is important to highlight upfront, is that illicit flows through ports, cities and border crossings in the Western Balkans are enabled by a political economy of crime that is deeply entrenched in most countries of the region. The report therefore takes a look at the ecosystem of crime that creates an environment in which illicit activity can flourish. It concludes with a prognosis of potential future hotspots of crime.