mercoledì 9 luglio 2014

The ongoing drug situation in Europe

This is a brief analysis of the European Drug Report (EDR) 2013 recently published by the EU that will be followed by a second one on the report of the UN UNODC agency for the fight against the organized crime. 
Getting in it, let me say that developments are necessary to keep the pace with both the rapidly shifting of drug situation and the growing needs and changing expectations of European audience. Said that it is clear that it is of great importance to monitor periodically  the rapid evolution of drugs trends and developments. In this context, the European Drug Report (EDR) 2013 package is a good tool to better understand the key points - and the state of the art - of drug related issue in the EU.
It is intended to be focused of the framework of the new EU drugs strategy for 2013–20, in which the European Union reaffirms its commitment to a balanced and evidence-based approach to drug issues. Of course, an important part of the EMCDDA’s mission is to help provide the information necessary to implement the better strategies to tackle all the problems at European Union related to the drugs use.
Done this short presentation, let us go inside the report putting under the lights the more important evidence it is possible to find in it according to the 2013 data with the recommendation to get into it by your own that is always the better way to understand the entire pictures. 
First of all it is worth to underline that: “…at least 85 million adult Europeans have used an illicit drug at some point in their lives, representing around a quarter of Europe’s adult population. Most report having used cannabis (77 million), with much lower estimates for lifetime use of other drugs: 14.5 million for cocaine, 12.7 million for amphetamines and 11.4 million for ecstasy…” and also: “…cocaine, amphetamines and ecstasy are the most commonly used illicit stimulants in Europe…”
Even if: “…The major features of the European drug landscape have remained relatively stable in recent years…” it should be said that “…new’ problems emerging that challenge current policy and practice models: new synthetic drugs and patterns of use are appearing, both on the illicit drug market and in the context of non-controlled substances…”.
It is clear that the situation is under control at all. The landscape is just evolving as usual and the market is always shifting in the effort to offer always new products to keep the offer hight. The plant drugs are sensibly be challenged by the synthetic that not always are enlisted as banned so that the use will be not punished. 
Internet it is still and always more a good facilitator for the illicit market of drugs: “…the Internet presents growing challenges, both as a mechanism for rapid diffusion of new trends and as a burgeoning anonymous marketplace with global reach. It creates a new interconnectedness in drug use and drug supply…”.
In my point of view what is interesting to note is that: “…overall, both cocaine use and supply indicators have been trending downwards in recent years, and the dramatic decrease in the amount seized is probably influenced, in part, by organized crime groups diversifying trafficking routes and techniques. The Iberian Peninsula remains important for seizures, but proportionally less so than in the past, while reports of cocaine seizures in eastern Europe are worrying and raise questions about the potential for further diffusion of use…” , because I am afraid that it means that the fight against the global network involved in the supply chain of cocaine are capable to get along with the policy and strategy to stop them.  
“…Amphetamine and ecstasy remain the most commonly used synthetic stimulants in Europe and compete to some extent with cocaine…” Europe has a story as producer of these drugs but it should be pointed out that Mexico organized crime networks has growth, in the latest couple of years, enormously in terms of production of synthetic drugs, thanking the relations with the Asian mafias -especially Chinese- that export precursors in the country, challenging the best know countries of Northern Europe such as Belgium and Holland in the production. The growing demand for these drugs - especially in the european eastern countries- may lead to the developments of new and unknown supply line coming even from Latin American, exploiting the same of the cocaine.
“…Two forms of imported heroin have historically been available in Europe: the more common of these is brown heroin (its chemical base form), originating mainly from Afghanistan. Far less common is white heroin (a salt form), which historically came from South-East Asia,
but now may be produced elsewhere…” 
The law quality of heroin seized in the recent past years should possible led the consumer to search for something differente but in my point of view the global market of heroin can not disappear due to the fact that it sustain a lot of center of power and not only criminal. The ongoing situation in Afganistan with the drug lords having won their battle and non sustain the new Taliban call for this type of interpretation along with the well known situation in the east Asia. 
“…although increased use of container shipments means that the large ports of Belgium, the Netherlands and other western European countries may have gained in importance. Recent signs of the ongoing diversification of cocaine trafficking routes into Europe include large individual seizures in ports in Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, and Baltic countries…” . It is true that we are seeing a shift in this market; the major request coming from easter Europe match with the offer of heroin coming from Asia. The organized crime networks, Russian, Armenian, Georgian and Albanian above the others are now capable to manage a -one for one-  approach in selling heroin vs cocaine and viceversa. In this context Greece and Italy, but also Belgium and Netherlands as entry countries will play a major role.
In conclusion it is of clear evidence that the drug related problems are far from be overcome. In Europe the gap between internal national based legislation and European legal framework still give at the organized crime networks the chance to get along with the efforts made by the law enforcement agencies. But it should be recognized that some step ahead have been done to pave the way for a common European strategy in tackle the mafias involved in drugs markets.
This is a good point to start, but it is not enough, so far.