Saturday

4th Feb 2023

Exclusive

Ukraine arms-trafficking into Poland on rise

  • The Western Balkans remains a main gateway of illegal arms trafficking into the EU (Photo: Maja Zlatevska, Dnevnik)
Listen to article

Attempts to smuggle illegal firearms into Poland from the Ukraine are on the rise, according to an internal EU document.

"Although large-scale trafficking of firearms has not yet become apparent, an increasing number of attempts to smuggle firearms from Ukraine to Poland has already been observed," notes the document, dated 30 November.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

It also found evidence of arms-trafficking in the opposite direction, from the EU.

"Firearms are also trafficked from the EU towards Ukraine and Libya. Given the ongoing conflict, Syria may become a country of interest in supplying EU markets with firearms," it notes.

The 47-page document was drafted by Empact, a security driven initiative by EU member states. No figures were given, due - in part - to the lack of systematic and harmonised collection of data on seizures of firearms in the EU.

But it does list operational plans of individual member states to curb firearms trafficking throughout next year.

Ukraine is labelled as a participant in over a dozen such plans, including one led by Romania to tackle high-risk criminal networks.

Most flows going into Ukraine

Nils Duquet is a weapons expert and director of the Flemish Peace Institute.

"At the moment, it seems like most of the weapon flows are actually still going to the Ukraine," he told EUobserver.

"There are seizures at the border. It's not always clear in what direction the weapons are going," he said.

"But there is definitely this fear that some of the weapons which are currently in Ukraine are also flowing back into the EU," he said.

Duquet drew parallels with the armed legacy conflicts like in former Yugoslavia, where weapons continue to flow into the EU.

He said Ukraine as well as Syria and Libya could fall into a similar predicament, where weapons in the region may end up being trafficked elsewhere.

"Then we would have a really big problem because we are still dealing with the weapons in the Western Balkans as leftover from the conflict in the former Yugoslavia," he said.

His comments came ahead of a 214-page report published by the Flemish Peace Institute on Monday (13 December).

The report details the level of gun violence in the EU.

Among the findings is the relatively new phenomenon of using 3D printers to create firearms.

"This is something that's new, and which is quite worrying because it's very difficult to combat," said Duquet.

"It enables access to firearms to people without criminal connections, and therefore might have a big impact also on gun violence," he said, noting 3D printer workshops have been dismantled in Spain.

Last month, Dutch police dismantled a clandestine workshop, where nine 3D printers were printing firearm components.

Other documented problems include the increasing use of so-called Flobert-calibre rifles in the EU.

The small caliber guns are cheap and sold legally in some EU states. But they can also be converted into higher calibre and more powerful firearms.

The 2016 Munich shooter reportedly used a Flobert firearm, which killed ten people and injured 35 others.

Although the 2017 EU legislation on firearms aimed to tighten restrictions, loopholes remained.

The restrictions led to a drop in the trade of so-called reactivated salute and acoustic weapons.

But they also led to an increase in the conversion of Flobert-calibre rifles. Both Slovakia and the Czech Republic, for instance, exempted Floberts from the EU directive.

Gun shops in Slovakia, which before were selling deactivated firearms, are now said to be selling Floberts. Slovakia was also the source country for the deactivated weapons used by the terrorist in the 2015 kosher supermarket attack in France.

Feature

'Flobert' guns - Europe's latest terror loophole

Project Safte, an international research project funded by the European Commission, has revealed a loophole in the EU firearms directive that is being exploited by criminals and possibly terrorists.

Opinion

Afghan withdrawal may spark ex-forces terrorism in Europe

Right-wing extremist narratives thrive on the US's swift withdrawal from Afghanistan. They may gain traction particularly among soldiers and veterans of Western armed forces, some of which have in the past been confronted with right-wing radicalisation among their troops.

Opinion

Europe is giving more aid to Ukraine than you think

'Europeans need to pull their weight in Ukraine. They should pony up more funds.' Such has been the chorus since the start of the war. The problem is the argument isn't borne out by the facts, at least not anymore.

Column

Democracy — is it in crisis or renaissance?

Countries that were once democratising are now moving in the other direction — think of Turkey, Myanmar, Hungary or Tunisia. On the other hand, in autocracies mass mobilisation rarely succeeds in changing political institutions. Think of Belarus, Iran or Algeria.

Latest News

  1. Greece faces possible court over 'prison-like' EU-funded migration centres
  2. How the centre-right can take on hard-right and win big in 2024
  3. Top EU officials show Ukraine solidarity on risky trip
  4. MEPs launch anonymous drop-box for shady lobbying secrets
  5. Hawkish ECB rate-rise 'puts energy transition at risk'
  6. MEPs push for greater powers for workers' councils
  7. How Pavel won big as new Czech president — and why it matters
  8. French official to take on Islamophobia in EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Party of the European LeftJOB ALERT - Seeking a Communications Manager (FT) for our Brussels office!
  2. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  3. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains
  4. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  5. EFBWWCouncil issues disappointing position ignoring the threats posed by asbestos
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  4. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  6. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us