3. Key developments in drug markets of Western Balkans
A major multi-faceted trafficking route is crossing the Western Balkan (WB) region, where also cannabis is produced. The presentation will detail the major health and security concerns of the region and provide an overview of the most recent developments, including impact of COVID-19 on drug markets.
Mixed method approach combining official statistics collected by EMCDDA, surveys, focus groups security intelligence, and a desk review.
Production of cannabis and trafficking of illicit drugs through the region is resilient and dynamic. Most recent changes include increased involvement of nationals from WB in the organised crime outside the region, such as cannabis cultivation in EU and international transport of cocaine. Western Balkans remain a region with relatively low prevalence of drug use, although there are indications of changes in level, patterns and substances being used; e.g. Cocaine reaching new groups of users. Provision of harm reduction and treatment are complicated by lack of resources and competing priorities; drug monitoring systems suffer from numerous gaps. COVID-19 pandemic did not seem to have lasting impact on drug market, availability and use. Criminal groups quickly adapted to changes, while health and harm reduction services were more affected highlighting fragile position of some segments of care.
Lack of reliable information prevents most WB countries from sustaining evidence-based policies and actions on drugs. Most data available refer to supply and security aspect of drug phenomenon. Addressing gaps in monitoring of drug use and drug services would allow national and local stakeholders to effectively respond to emerging trends.