How much do you actually know about organized crime? I am not just talking about the infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar from Colombia. Widespread and sprawling terror networks are closer than one may think, as criminal markets have taken over Europe in recent years. In fact, in 2019, criminal revenues in the main criminal markets amounted to 139 billion, or 1% of the European Union’s GDP. Criminal markets are those in which organized crime groups cooperate with each other in their buying and selling of illicit goods or services. On October 7, a deal was agreed upon in Amsterdam between six European Union member states (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain) to strengthen their relations and work together to combat the threat of organized crime. The accord will promote collaboration with other countries, such as some in Latin America, to help block the spread of criminal activity stemming from these countries.
Furthermore, the six nations will also work on promulgating new legislation to restrict the smuggling and trafficking of illegal objects globally. But a pivotal question arises: why are these countries now pressing for more measures than before?
When major conflict arises (such as war or terrorism), leaders and governments scramble to guarantee that the safety of their domestic population is maintained and therefore put less focus on managing organized crime. This makes it easier for organized groups to get away with illegal actions. Now, with the war in Ukraine, there has been a surge in many organized criminal groups, and therefore much more criminal activity. In light of the conflict in Ukraine, cyber attacks, misappropriation of funds that were supposed to be solely for the refugees, online fraud, human trafficking, and arms trafficking have mainly gone undetected amidst the chaos.
Taking advantage of the fragile political atmosphere in which Europe presently finds itself, criminal groups not only pose a threat to the internal security of one country, but also to the international community as a whole. After the Ukraine-Russia war started in February, the EU Home Affairs Ministers supported the mobilization of the EU platform for fighting organized and serious crime (EMPACT). This was done to help EU member states tackle criminal networks and individuals exploiting the war in Ukraine. Even Europol has been on high alert and is working to reduce the threat of criminal networks that are growing.
Lastly, in addition to the very recent consequences brought on by the conflict, there is a very large scope of other crimes committed all over the continent. 70% of criminal groups are present in three or more member states of the European Union and freedom of movement facilitated by the EU has helped them spread their activities. The war in Ukraine has brought an issue to light that was already present, but it has also led to a mutual understanding that there is a need for more pressing action. The interconnectedness of states today is not only limited to the EU and what occurs inside of it, but also to the rest of the world. The phenomenon of globalization has promoted criminal markets and resembles an ecosystem where criminal activities bring to life unlawful behaviors at an international level.
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