EU Drugs Market – Europol Suggests a More Robust Response Needed

The EU retail drug market is estimated to be worth more than EUR 30 billion annually, making it a major source of income for organised crime. Europe occupies a central position in drug supply and trafficking, as evidenced by the large-scale production of cannabis and synthetic drugs within the EU and the huge volumes of cocaine arriving from Latin America.

Commenting on organised crime groups, Europol remarked that:

“Criminal networks operating in the EU drug market are highly adaptable, innovative and resilient to global crises, instability and significant political and economic changes. Recent examples of such shocks include the COVID-19 pandemic, Russia’s war on Ukraine and the Taliban’s rise to power in Afghanistan. In response, criminal networks have adapted, changing trafficking routes and diversifying their methods.”


Criminal networks leverage digital advances and technological opportunities to conceal illicit communication, improve drug distribution models and reduce risk. An example of this is the recent rise in the use of social media and instant messaging applications for the retail sale of drugs, making a wide range of substances more accessible.

Europol’s Executive Director stated:

“Criminal networks infect the very core of our communities, weaving through the fabric of our democracy and economy. They erode trust, fuel violence, and create cycles of addiction and poverty. A vigilant, unified response is needed to safeguard our citizens and society from the omnipresent influence of this invisible enemy. Using Europol, EU Member States can pool resources, exchange criminal intelligence, and coordinate actions to tackle the illegal distribution of drugs.”

“The market for illicit drugs, controlled by criminal networks, represents a serious security threat to the European Union. It endangers public health and safety while fostering extreme violence and corruption, undermining the very fabric of society, democracy and the rule of law.”


Actions to counter drug crime

International law enforcement has had some recent success in disrupting major criminal drug markets, not least by taking down the EncroChat platform.

Europol is now urging its international partners to take further measures to strengthen law enforcement. These include:


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