Report: €30 Billion EU Drug Market Is Wily and Strong

Published: 08 March 2024

Cocaine DeathEU durg market is valued at more than 30 billion euro ($32.79 billion) annually. (Photo: Imagens Evangélicas, Flickr, License)

By Zdravko Ljubas

A new report from European Union (EU) agencies underscores how extreme drug-related violence is straining local communities and society, while also highlighting how corruption is facilitating drug trafficking and undermining the rule of law.

Released on Thursday, the “EU Drug Markets Analysis 2024” report, jointly published by Europol and the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), unveils insights into the EU drug market, offering a strategic overview and examining emerging threats in the drug landscape.

The report details the complex ties between illicit drug trade and various criminal domains in the EU, showing how drug trafficking intersects with firearm smuggling, and describing the tools and tactics employed by these networks.

According to Europol, the EU retail drug market is valued at more than 30 billion euro (US$32.79 billion) annually, a significant revenue stream for organized crime groups.

The corrup“EU drug market also intersects with other crime areas, such as trafficking in firearms and money laundering,” the report says. “Some EU member states are currently experiencing unprecedented levels of drug market-related violence, including killings, torture, kidnappings and intimidation.”

At the same time corruption, described as a key threat in the EU, helps criminal networks at all levels of the drug market to facilitate operations and mitigate risks, corroding governance, security, and the rule of law.

“Drugs damage our health and our society. Drugs cause addiction, overdose and death. And the organized criminal networks trafficking the drugs undermine society with corruption and violence,” said Ylva Johansson, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs.

Europe has a pivotal role in drug supply and trafficking, including substantial cannabis and synthetic drug production within the EU and significant cocaine influx from Latin America, showing the remarkable adaptability, innovation, and resilience of its criminal networks.

These networks adeptly navigate global crises like the COVID-19 pandemic, Russia’s war on Ukraine, and the Taliban's rise in Afghanistan, among other challenges.

In addition to outlining critical issues, the new report identifies key action areas for the EU and its members to address the challenges posed by the drug trade.

“A vigilant, unified response is needed to safeguard our citizens and society from the omnipresent influence of this invisible enemy. Using Europol, EU member states can pool resources, exchange criminal intelligence, and coordinate actions to tackle the illegal distribution of drugs,” Catherine De Bolle, Europol’s Executive Director, stated.

The report calls for  better monitoring of drug-related violence, prioritizing operations against criminal networks, boosting international cooperation, increasing resources for strategic responses, and strengthening policy, public health and safety measures.

Alexis Goosdeel, EMCDDA director, warns that violence and corruption, once prevalent in traditional drug-producing countries, are now emerging within the EU at all levels of the market.

“We are now at a critical juncture. We need a holistic European approach to tackle this problem through strengthening our communities, building resilience and preventing the recruitment of young people into crime, providing them with long-lasting alternatives,” she concluded.