ISSN 2330-717X

US Assesses Counternarcotics Efforts In Balkan Countries

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Turkish authorities seized nearly 36,000kg of narcotics in the first half of 2010, according to the US State Department’s annual International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, published on Thursday (March 3rd).

The total amount of hashish confiscated on Turkish territory between January and June last year stood at 26,778kg, followed by heroin at 8,167kg and opium at 476kg. In addition, the country prevented a combined 426kg of cocaine, amphetamine type stimulants (ATS) and methamphetamines, as well as more than 350,000 dosage units of ecstasy from reaching the market.

“Turkey is affected by three main heroin drug trafficking routes, namely: the Balkan route, the northern (Black Sea) route and the eastern Mediterranean route,” the report said, noting the country’s strong commitment to disrupting narcotics smuggling.

Like the eight other Balkan countries included in the about 600-page paper — Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia — Turkey remains a transit point for drugs trafficked to Western Europe.

From January to November 2010, Bulgaria’s State Unit for Combating Organised Crime and the country’s Customs Agency seized a total of 305kg of heroin, 17kg of cocaine and 14kg of opium. In addition, police confiscated nearly 2,800kg of dry and green cannabis — the only illicit drug crop known to be cultivated in the country, which is destined primarily for the domestic market.

The report praised the Bulgarian authorities for their “significant progress in targeting and arresting major organised crime figures” involved in drug trafficking and scores of other crimes. But it also described the year-on-year decline in the amount of narcotics seized by the country’s customs agency as an indication of its weakened institutional capability to fight drug trafficking.

“According to Bulgarian law enforcement officials, traffickers are also bypassing Bulgaria in favour of the Black Sea or the ‘northern route’ due to tightened security ahead of Bulgaria’s entry into the Schengen zone,” the state department noted.

About 374kg of heroin was seized in the other seven Balkan nations, the bulk of it in Serbia (108.3kg), Croatia (96.2kg) and BiH (75.6kg).

Albania, which is not a significant producer of illicit drugs other than cannabis, “made progress in its counternarcotics efforts during 2010,” the state department said.

But its Adriatic Sea ports and porous land borders remain attractive to smugglers, it added, in part due to corruption among law enforcement officials, as well as poor management.

While the Bosnian state security institutions showed “modest improvements” in their capabilities to fight drug smuggling last year, they need to further develop their capacity, particularly in the fields of anti-narcotics intelligence and enforcement, according to the report.

“Weak state institutions, lack of personnel in counternarcotics units, and imperfect co-operation among the responsible authorities contribute to Bosnia’s vulnerability to narcotic trafficking,” the state department said.

SETimes

SETimes

The Southeast European Times Web site is a central source of news and information about Southeastern Europe in ten languages: Albanian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Croatian, English, Greek, Macedonian, Romanian, Serbian and Turkish. The Southeast European Times is sponsored by the US European Command, the joint military command responsible for US operations in 52 countries. EUCOM is committed to promoting stability, co-operation and prosperity in the region.

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