Drug Traffickers’ Exploitation of Balkan Ports Requires Regional Response

Applying the classification to the nine ports in the Balkans [see below], criminal networks lead the way with a presence in five of the nine: Koper in Slovenia, Rijeka and Ploce in Croatia, Varna in Bulgaria and Constanta in Romania. Mafia-style groups are active in Bar and Albania's Durres. Foreign actors are busy in Greek ports in Athens and Thessaloniki. State-embedded groups can be seen only in Bar and deal with cigarette smuggling as opposed to drugs.

Illustration: Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime.

In Slovenian and Croatian ports operate small cells of criminals, what Europol and the media have labelled the Balkan cartel. The best-known clans are the Kavac and Skaljari from Montenegro, both of which are deeply entwined with Serbian organised crime and who have been at war with one another since 2015, leaving more than 60 people dead.

The Balkan cartel enjoys a significant advantage - Bosnians, Croats, Montenegrins, Serbs, and Slovenians don't need a translator in order to collaborate. Cultural barriers are negligible.

Slovenia, for example, is where criminals from the Balkans hide out, plan activities and conduct illicit business. The Slovenian cell of the Kavac clan moves mainly cannabis and cocaine to Slovenia from the Netherlands and Spain, storing shipments in the mountainous Gorenjska before sending them on to Austria, Germany, and Italy. The group is also accused of procuring firearms in Slovakia for sale to criminals in the Netherlands, Serbia, and Slovenia.

Strengthen regional police cooperation

For cocaine trafficking, there are thought to be around 20 criminal cells of different ethnicities from the region that can be...

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