The lunchtime conference titled “EU trans-regional responses to drug trafficking and organised crime” took place on 17 May 2018 organised in the margins of the fourth Cocaine Route Programme (CRP) Steering Committee. The event offered a comprehensive view on the combined efforts of different EU programmes in a concerted response of the EU to the threat posed by drug trafficking and organised crime, while promoting regional and transregional cooperation.
The Cocaine Route Programme (CRP) was part of conference through the presentations on its ongoing components – namely AIRCOP, CRIMJUST, CORMS and SEACOP, in addition to EU Action against Drugs and Organized Crime (EU-ACT), formerly the Heroin Route Programme.
According to figures presented by CRIMJUST the conservative estimate of the retail cocaine market is 95 billion USD. In this regard, Mr Olivier Luyckx, Head of Unit, DEVCO B5 – Security, Nuclear Safety, in his introductory remarks, underlined that ‘drug trafficking and organised crime are increasing in complexity, in size, in volume and in worth’ adding that ‘organised crime groups are being more and more flexible, changing their business models within days or weeks, exploiting any possible vulnerabilities in each and every system’.
Emphasis was put on increased coca and opium poppy cultivation resulting in increased production of drugs. In relation to coca and cocaine ‘the surface devoted to coca growing has expanded by 75% over the last three years. The volume of the production has increased, to 1000 of tons a year over the last three years’. The increasing in the quality of the product has been recognized as a ‘major problem for health and for the economic and social fabric’.
Having acknowledged the problems posed by drug trafficking and organised crime, the CRP and EU-ACT initiatives were presented as key efforts in providing support to EU partner countires to curbe these threats.
The Cocaine Route Programme (CRP)
The Cocaine Route Programme is a set of different projects that work jointly as a programme, with four components currently active:
- The Airport Communication Project (AIRCOP) supports real time operational communication between international airports to fight transnational organised crime. To date 22 Joint Airport Interdiction Task Forces established by the project are operational which has an overall presence in 39 countries and 43 airports. Seizures amount up to 6.8 tons of cocaine, 2.3 tons of cannabis, 1.8 tons of methamphetamine and over 10 million USD of undeclared cash among others.
- The Seaport Cooperation Project (SEACOP) builda capacities and strengthena cooperation to support the fight against maritime trafficking of drugs and other criminal activities in countries on the trans-Atlantic cocaine route. It aims to reinforce capacities in seaports and sensitive coastal areas by setting up Joint Maritime Control Units (JMCUs) and specialist Maritime Intelligence Units (MIUs) in selected countries in West Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean to enhance international cooperation and information exchange.
- CRIMJUST complements the efforts of the existing CRP projects with a stronger focus on criminal investigations and criminal justice cooperation in Latin American, Carribean and West African countries to enhance their capacity to effectively counter organised crime along the cocaine route. To date the project has provided training to over 1820 participants (21% women), with an average of 4 training activities organised per month. Operational activities led by INTERPOL include joint operations such as ‘Lionfish’ which resulted in seizure of over 20 tons of cocaine and diamntling of a number of cocaine processing laboratories.
- The Cocaine Route Monitoring and Support Project (CORMS) was established to increase the synergies between all the components of the CRP as well as to improve coordination with other initiatives in the fight against organised crime and drug trafficking. The overall objective is to increase the coherence of EU actions under the CRP and others relevant projects and programmes as well as ensure closer monitoring of all the components of the CRP. In its current phase CORMS has undertaken five monitoring missions to 11 countries in West Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.
EU Action against Drugs and Organised Crime (EU-ACT)
EU-ACT aims at building capacities to increase regional and trans-regional law enforcement cooperation in the fight against organized crime and trafficking activities along the heroin route from Afghanistan by fostering trust and close collaboration. The original concept of the programme focused on intelligence-led policing and evidence based approach to tackle heroin trafficking continues into this new phase which has broadened its scope to cover all types of drugs and precursor chemicals. In line with existing EU policy on drugs focusing on the balanced approach, EU-ACT also covers issues around demand and harm reduction. The project works in five priority countries in regions along the heroin route to include Ukraine, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan and Tanzania, which also serve as regional hubs and centres of excellence.