EMCDDA closing conference of two cooperation projects

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) hosted the closing conference of its international cooperation projects with the Western Balkans and European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) region. The two-day event was held on 21 and 22 November 2022, in the margins of Lisbon Addictions 2022, Europe’s largest conference in the area of addictions.

The objective of the two projects is to familiarise the project beneficiaries with EU policies and working methods and to prepare them for consolidated and structured reporting to the EMCDDA.

Under the theme ‘Drugs beyond EU borders: emerging trends and preparedness’, the event focused on cross-border drug-related health and security threats in the Western Balkans and on drug markets and emerging drug-related challenges in the ENP region.

Over 80 participants – from 18 partners, EU institutions and other bodies – attended the meeting (in Lisbon and online) to discuss the results of this cooperation. Among others, experts took a look at the preparedness of health and security services in the regions to address the emerging threat of cocaine trafficking and use. DPNSEE Executive Director Milutin Milošević was among the speakers in the Moderated panel discussion: How prepared are the partners for emerging cocaine trafficking and use?

The meeting also provided a platform for partners to present work undertaken in the framework of the projects aimed at improving knowledge on the drug situation in the region and at scaling up responses.

In cooperation with the Portuguese national focal point (SICAD), the meeting concluded with onsite visits to: a commission for the dissuasion of drug use; a judicial police forensic laboratory; a community-based harm reduction programme; a low-threshold mobile unit for methadone distribution and a drug consumption room.

Visit to the GAT drop-in centre in Mouraria, run by the peers from the population of people who use(d) drugs

EMCDDA new analysis on the drug situation in the Western Balkans

From the EMCDDA webpage

Drug-related health and security threats in the Western Balkans are highlighted in a new report published by the EU drugs agency (EMCDDA). Released in the framework of the agency’s latest Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance project (IPA7), funded by the EU, the report provides the latest picture of the drug situation in the region.

The report offers a top-level analysis of drug markets, their drivers, facilitators and consequences, as well as an overview of drug policy and the law, drug use, harms and responses. It concludes with a regional overview of each of the major drug types, focusing on use, production and trafficking. Additional challenges, such as corruption, violence and the internationalisation of organised crime networks are also considered.

The findings are based on EMCDDA data collected through structured questionnaires and complemented by information from studies, focus groups and scientific literature. It appears that drug-related information is overall relatively limited in the region, although this varies, to some extent, between the partners concerned.

The report presents a summary of ‘key findings’, including:

  • Available data show that overall drug use in the region appears to be lower than in the neighbouring EU, although notable differences in patterns of use can be observed between the Western Balkan partners. There is an ongoing need to better monitor harms associated with opioid and cocaine use in the region, as evidence suggests that use of these substances is evolving in ways that could have important implications in future.
  • Harm reduction services operate in all of the partners, but the provision of interventions appears to be generally insufficient and is often dependent on international funding. Data point to an overarching need in the region to increase the provision of treatment and other services for people with drug problems. In particular, responses targeting harmful patterns of use for non-opioid drugs appear to be currently underdeveloped, while, at the same time, demand for such responses may be growing.
  • Western Balkan criminal networks appear to have become key actors in both the regional and EU drug markets. This partly reflects the geographical position of the Western Balkans, which lie at the intersection of a number of major drug trafficking routes (e.g. Balkan route for heroin), but also, potentially, some emerging routes for other drugs, including cocaine. These criminal networks have a significant impact on security, governance and the rule of law in the region.
  • Some criminal networks from the Western Balkans have adopted a new business model of direct involvement in cannabis production within the EU. Their presence in a number of EU countries, primarily associated with indoor production facilities, has been noted. Patterns of cannabis cultivation in the region are shifting and diversifying. Significantly less cannabis is cultivated outdoors in Albania than in the past, while large-scale cannabis cultivation sites have been recorded in other parts of the Western Balkan region.
  • Violence associated with competition for drug markets and control of trafficking routes is a significant security threat. A number of homicides in the EU and elsewhere have been linked to Western Balkan criminal networks involved in the drug trade, particularly the cocaine business.

The report is available following this link>>>.


Organized crime groups in the Western Balkans

The Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP) published their research focuses on the six European Union (EU) accession candidates from the Western Balkans (WB6): Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia. Its objectives are to map the phenomenon and main characteristics of organized crime groups (OCGs) in the region. The analysis is based on the research of both primary and secondary data, using expert interviews, police announcements, official statistics, national SOCTA documents, etc.

The study finds that OCGs from some countries such as Albania, Montenegro and Serbia developed largely international networks with 30 and more members. These OCGs represent the main actors and leaders of organized crime (OC) in the region. Other OCGs which have fewer members (from 3-4 to around 15), perform mainly on a national level or as facilitators of bigger OCGs. Male gender is the most common (in about 90% of the cases). Women are engaged in logistic activities, although there are individual cases where they are higher in the criminal group hierarchy. The age of the members can vary between 20 and 50 years old, depending on the activity and territory. The estimated average is around 35, but there are cases of members aged 65 and over. The nationalities and ethnicities of the OCGs follow the patterns of their regions, having solid bonds with their families and traditions. However, differences in background do not stop OCGs to cooperate and make criminal networks.

The main criminal activities performed by the OCGs in WB6 are the illicit drug trafficking and migrant smuggling. At the same time, illegal firearms and explosives trafficking and money laundering serve as facilitators of the major activities. Less frequent crime types are organized property crimes, where smuggling of goods is the most prominent activity. Trafficking in human beings has recently been much-evoked in public, mainly by large migration going through the Balkans and creating opportunities for illegal migration and human trafficking. Still, it seems like the authorities currently do not identify big OCGs in the trafficking of human beings. In addition, cybercrime represents an incremental trend, but there also seem to be no prominent OCGs which perform it as a core activity.

To read the document, follow this link>>>.


Fight Against Corruption: The Western Balkans in Focus

The Southeast Europe Leadership for Development and Integrity (SELDI) organised the regional policy forum Fight Against Corruption: The Western Balkans in Focus on 7 April 2022 in Skopje. The Forum focused on the challenges that Western Balkan societies face in closing the institutional gaps that allow the flourishment of corruption.

The forum included a presentation of SELDI’s Corruption Monitoring System (CMS) for the period 2014-2021. Dr. Aleksandar Gerganov, Senior Analyst at the Center for Study of Democracy underlined that the anti-corruption progress achieved in the Western Balkans between the early 2000s and mid-2010s has been halted or even reversed. Self-reported involvement in corruption in the Western Balkans remains very high – 20-40% of the citizens admit to having paid some kind of a bribe. Tolerance of corruption by the general public, although declining, still ranges between 25% and 40%. The most concerning fact, revealed by the CMS however, was that the overwhelming majority of the citizens has lost hope in the feasibility of anti-corruption policy responses. This points to a deep-seated crisis in the trust in governments.

In conclusion, the representatives of the CSOs agreed that the lack of political will in implementing systemic reforms remains as a core democracy challenge. The participants called for more decisive actions, including stricter monitoring of budget spending, harsher sanctions for rule of law violations, and increased support and EU funding for those who implement successful reforms. The adoption of new laws on lobbying and on the seizure of assets, the opening of registers, the cross-border exchange of information allowing checks of asset declarations, as well as the media portrayal of victims of corruption were also among the policy recommendations voiced at the forum.

More about the Forum, including presentation and recording, is available following this link>>>.


Annual Enlargement Review on human hights of LGBTI people

ILGA-Europe (LGBTI equality and human rights in Europe and Central Asia) and our colleagues from the LGBTI Equal Rights Association for Western Balkans and Turkey (ERA), have published their annual Enlargement Review, which outlines the developments in recognising and respecting the human rights of LGBTI people in each enlargement country (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey) from January to December 2021.

The annual LGBTI Enlargement Review acts as an LGBTI submission to the Enlargement Progress Reports of the European Commission. These reports are a detailed annual assessment of the state of play in each candidate country and potential candidate country, outlining what has been achieved over the last year and what remains to be achieved.

This year’s Enlargement Review is published in the context of rising Euroscepticism in the enlargement countries, as well as a significant rise of anti-gender, anti-rights and far-right groups across the region. Misinformation and discriminatory speech against LGBTI people has been spread in public discourse via national broadcasting and political processes, leading to the prevention of the development of laws and policies inclusive of LGBTI people. As a result, despite some welcome significant advancements in the preparation and drafting of legislation to protect the human rights of LGBTI people this year, much of this legislation is currently stalled.

The Annual Enlargement Review recognises that the EU accession process has been a strong driving force for change in the recognition of the human rights of LGBTI people in the region, and it encourages this continued commitment by outlining the laws and policies that are still needed to ensure full and genuine protection of the human rights of LGBTI people, and by providing recommendations to each country’s authorities and to the European Union.

At ILGA-Europe, we hope to see the current legislative gaps closed, in particular regarding family rights, legal gender recognition based on self-determination, and the protection of intersex people’s human rights. With the rise in anti-gender, anti-rights and far-right groups, we renew with increased urgency our call on all countries to properly implement their anti-discrimination, hate crime and hate speech legal frameworks.

To read the report, follow this link>>>.


Illicit financial flows – the lifeblood of crime and corruption

Each year, millions of Euros of illicit financial flows (IFFs) circulate through the Western Balkans, despite significant government efforts to prevent this type of crime. The Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime (GI TOC) published the report Illicit financial flows in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia. This report completes their study of illicit financial flows (IFFs) in the Western Balkans.

The focus this time is Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia. IFFs are the mechanisms by which money earned illegally is transferred into and out of economies to criminal beneficiaries worldwide. Each year, large sums of money are transferred out of developing and transitioning economies. These are funds that could have been used for public and private goods: public services, investment or jobs. The whole society suffers as a result of their loss.

The recommendations from the report focus first of all on improving the visibility and data-sharing on IFFs, particularly in the financial sector and trade ‘channels’. Second, GI TOC encourage a far greater dialogue on IFFs in the region, focused on a clearer definition and with an explicit role for CSOs. Third, national IFF priorities should be agreed on, to ensure the responses are measured and meaningful, such as greater institutional information sharing in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and updated AML frameworks for Montenegro and Serbia, with a particular focus on the construction sector. Fourth, the countries should also agree on and coordinate regional priorities, such as harmonization of measures to address tax evasion and a common policy to record and monitor beneficial ownership. Government anti-corruption activities need greater strength across the region. Finally, donor support for combating IFFs must be more closely aligned and coordinated to avoid duplication of effort.

The report in English is available following this link>>>.

Version in Bosnian-Croatian-Montenegrin-Serbian is available following this link>>>.


Accompanying the report, GI TOC organises webinar on 26 Jan 2022 at 3 PM (CET). The webinar will stimulate a conversation around key issues of IFFs in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia and the broader Western Balkans region. The event will feature insights from experts on the topic from the three focus countries as well as other experts on IFFs to look at the problem and effective responses to it.

To participate, register here>>>.


European Web Survey on Drugs 2021

From the EMCDDA press release

The EU drugs agency (EMCDDA) published today results of the European Web Survey on Drugs. The survey ran between March and April 2021 in 30 countries (21 EU and 9 non-EU) when many populations were under COVID-19-related lockdowns. Targeted at people aged 18 and over who have used drugs, the survey aims to improve understanding of patterns of drug use in Europe and help shape future drug policies and interventions.

Close to 50 000 adults (48.469) responded to the survey from 21 EU Member States and Switzerland. Cannabis was the drug used most, with 93% of survey respondents reporting to have used it in the previous 12 months and with little variation between countries. MDMA/ecstasy (35%), cocaine (35%) and amphetamine (28%) were the next most reported illicit substances, with the order of the three drugs varying by country. Around a third of respondents (32%) reported using more (herbal) cannabis and 42% using less MDMA/ecstasy.

The survey revealed that one fifth (20%) of the sample reported using LSD in the last year, 16% using new psychoactive substances (NPS) and 13% using ketamine. Heroin use was reported by 3% of respondents. Although the sample reporting heroin use was small, over a quarter of these respondents (26%) reported using this drug more during the period studied.

New to the 2021 round was the participation of the agency’s partners from the Western Balkans, through an EMCDDA technical assistance project (IPA7).

Over 2 000 adults (2 174) from Albania, Kosovo*, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia responded to the survey. Most respondents (91%) reported using cannabis in the previous 12 months, followed by cocaine (38%), MDMA/ecstasy (22%) and amphetamine (20%). Again, around a third of respondents (32%) reported using more (herbal) cannabis and 34% using less MDMA/ecstasy.

Almost one in six (17%) respondents reported using NPS in the last year, while 9% reported use of LSD. Use of both heroin and methamphetamine was reported by 8% of respondents.

Home was reported as the most common setting for drug use during the period (85% of respondents in the EU-Switzerland survey and 72% in the Western Balkans), a pattern accentuated by COVID-19 lockdowns and closure of nightlife venues. Motivation for the use of different substances sheds some light on these results. The most commonly reported motivations for cannabis use were relaxation, getting high and aiding sleep, while for MDMA/ecstasy, they were its euphoric and socialising effects.


For more information, visit:

Changes at the drugs market in the Western Balkans

To improve understanding of the impact of the pandemic and associated measures on the drug market in the Western Balkans, the European Drugs Agency (EMCDDA) published ad hoc publication Illicit drug markets and supply in the Western Balkans: Impact of COVID-19.

This report provides the main results of studies conducted using the trendspotter methodology to explore the impact of the pandemic and associated measures on the drug markets and supply in the Western Balkans.

Reported here are the findings of a rapid multidisciplinary expert opinion study to review the possible impact of COVID-19 on the operation of the drug market. The current situation is extremely dynamic.

The findings of the study should be interpreted with caution as they are based substantially on expert opinions gathered from law enforcement sources between September and October 2020, when the research was conducted. In general, very limited statistical or research data is available in the Western Balkan region on drug markets during this period. Therefore, the conclusions are necessarily preliminary and will require review as more data sources become available.

To read the report, please follow this link>>>.


A new report on flows of people, drugs and money in the Western Balkans

The Western Balkans is a crossroads for the trafficking of many illicit commodities, and it is a geographical hub for the smuggling of migrants who are trying to enter Western Europe.

The Global initiative against transnational organised crime (GI-TOC) published a new report: “Spot Prices: Analysing flows of people, drugs and money in the Western Balkans“.

It provides a detailed overview of the prices and routes for drugs and migrants being smuggled through the Western Balkans and sheds light on the size of the profits generated and where the money is laundered.

This report contains a wealth of information gathered through field research and interviews carried out with current and former law enforcement officials, investigative journalists, researchers, local officials, migrants, drug users, and civil society representatives in the region.

There are a lot of interesting maps and visual presentations about migrant smuggling, drug trafficking and money laundering. I hope you will enjoy it reading.

To read the report, follow this link>>>.


European Web Survey on Drugs 2021

The EU drugs agency (EMCDDA) launched today the European Web Survey on Drugs 2021. Targeted at people, aged 18 and over, who have used drugs, the survey aims to improve understanding of patterns of drug use in Europe and help shape future drug policies and interventions.

The voluntary, anonymous survey – one of the agency’s targeted ‘leading-edge’ monitoring methods – will run this year in 31 countries and 28 languages. As in previous years, it will be promoted nationally by the Reitox focal points and their partners, as well as through targeted social media advertisements.

In 2016, the first European Web Survey on Drugs was launched. It ran in 16 countries and more than 80 000 people participated. In 2021, this survey will run in over 30 EU and neighbouring countries!

New to this year’s round is the participation of the agency’s partners from the Western Balkans and the European Neighbourhood Policy area through the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA7) and EU4Monitoring Drugs (EU4MD) projects.

The new questionnaire, which will run for six weeks, is structured in modules on: socio-demographics, drug using patterns, access to treatment, access to drugs (amounts usually bought and prices paid) and how COVID-19 has affected patterns of drug use. Its findings will contribute to the emerging knowledge base on drug-using practices in Europe and on the quantities of drugs used. This will help enhance market size estimates at national and European level and contribute to policy development more widely.

Links for your the Survey in SEE countries are BulgariaGreeceRomaniaSloveniaAlbaniaKosovo*, MontenegroNorth MacedoniaSerbia.