Saturday

25th Mar 2017

Europe's cocaine habit fuels West Africa instability

  • Less cocaine is being trafficked into Europe via West Africa, says the United Nations (Photo: US federal government)

The price and demand for cocaine in Europe remains high as shipments through West African transit countries to EU destinations has dropped.

A report released on Monday (25 February) by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) says the cocaine tonnage arriving into Europe from West Africa has dropped to 18 in 2010, down from a 2007 peak of 47.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

“While this is good news, it does not take a lot of cocaine to cause trouble in a region with poverty and governance problems,” says the UNODC report.

The region is also a hotbed of weapons smuggling, methamphetamine production for crystal meth, fraudulent medicines, and maritime piracy.

But the cocaine traffic is driven by a lucrative EU market.

The white powder comes primarily from Colombia, Bolivia and Peru via West Africa before it reaches city streets in Europe where demand has more than doubled in the past two decades.

In Brazil’s largest port at Santos, Nigerian groups are said to organise up to 30 percent of the cocaine exports by ship or container, “up from negligible levels a few years earlier”, notes the UN.

The money generated exceeds the GDP of some of the transit countries.

Criminals use the extraordinary wealth to buy off the political elite that fuels corruption and in some cases topples governments. Assassinations are not uncommon.

The ‘narco-state’ of Guinea-Bissau saw its president, Joao Bernardo Vieira, shot dead by a rival military commander in 2009 over his alleged role in the lucrative cocaine trade with Columbian cartels.

Islamic armed rebels and cocaine

The flow of wealth extends beyond corrupt politicians and criminal networks.

Reports are emerging that insurgents in Mali fighting the French-backed government army is partly financed by the cocaine destined for European consumption.

“It remains possible that these funds contributed to the recent rebellion in Mali,” notes the report.

Armed Islamic groups in the region may also be benefiting from the illicit trade, “especially the various rebel forces in the Sahel and the terrorist group Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb,” says the UN.

The apparent drop in traffic from the region may be illusory.

“There is debate as to whether the flow of cocaine decreased commensurably or whether the traffickers have simply found less detectable ways of moving the drug,” says the report.

For its part, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction revealed in January that some traffickers are finding ways to chemically incorporate cocaine into legitimate products like clothing or plastics.

Another theory for the drop is that the cartels are losing too much money and are working new or different routes.

Political turmoil after 2007 may have severed ties with the cartels. Authorities say the number of large cocaine seizures has since diminished. The number of detected couriers has also dropped.

The UNODC says greater international cooperation and information sharing among authorities is needed to stem the flow.

The European Commission, for its part, estimates around 1.5 million EU citizens consume cocaine. This amounts to around 140 tonnes each year. Spain and Portugal remain the primary entry points.

Analysis

More hype than substance in EU counter-terror plans

The 22 March anniversary of the Brussels bombing will trigger a lot of soul searching. But EU counter-terrorism strategies over the past 10 years have been crisis-driven with little follow through or oversight.

LuxLeaks whistleblowers sentenced again

PwC employees Antoine Deltour and Raphael Halet, who revealed how multinational companies dodged taxes through deals in Luxembourg, were given reduced sentences.

EU lawmakers tighten firearm rules

The EU parliament backed a provisional deal with member states to tighten EU gun laws. EU states now have to formally adopt their position before the new legislation is enacted.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Gaming & Betting Association60 Years Rome Treaty – 60 Years Building an Internal Market
  2. Malta EU 2017New EU Rules to Prevent Terrorism and Give More Rights to Victims Approved
  3. European Jewish Congress"Extremists Still Have Ability and Motivation to Murder in Europe" Says EJC President
  4. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAudiovisual Media Services Directive to Exclude Minors from Gambling Ads
  5. ILGA-EuropeTime for a Reality Check on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  6. UNICEFHuman Cost to Refugee and Migrant Children Mounts Up One Year After EU-Turkey Deal
  7. Malta EU 2017Council Adopts New Rules to Improve Safety of Medical Devices
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Research: How to Reach 100 Percent Renewable Energy
  9. Party of European SocialistsWe Must Renew Europe for All Europeans
  10. MEP Tomáš ZdechovskýThe European Commission Has Failed in Its Fight Against Food Waste
  11. ILGA-EuropeEP Recognises Discrimination Faced by Trans & Intersex People
  12. Nordic Council of Ministers25 Nordic Bioeconomy Cases for Sustainable Change