Illicit drugs are big business and drug markets continue to be one of the most profitable areas for organised crime groups operating in the European Union. Each year Europeans spend at least EUR 24 billion on illicit drugs. If the sums of money spent on illicit drugs areconsiderable, then the costs for our communities and citizens are even bigger. The analysis presented here explores these costs in detail. They extend beyond simply the harm to which those who use drugs are exposed; the collateral damage to society resulting from drug market activities is manifest in unsafe communities, damage to legitimate commercial activities, the corruption of officials, violent crime and even the destruction of the environment. This wider impact is why this topic is so important and why I am pleased that two agencies for which I am responsible, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, Europol, and our drugs agency, the EMCDDA, have once again joined forces to produce a new state-of-the-art analysis of the European drug market and its impact. This information is invaluable for policy-makers and governments to be able to make informed choices and better policies for the benefit and protection of our citizens and societies overall.
We live in an increasingly joined-up and fast-moving world in which Europe faces social, economic and security challenges on several fronts. Globalisation and technological changes are impacting on all aspects of modern life and the drugs market is quick to exploit these new opportunities as they arise — as is illustrated by the rapid growth of the open trade and sale of new psychoactive substances. In this report it has been necessary to address the growing implications of new technology and the internet, the growth in global trade and the existence of a commercial infrastructure that enables goods to be moved rapidly across international borders. The report shows us why a better understanding of the operations of organised crime and the changing business models used by groups active in drug trafficking and production can help us better target the vulnerabilities of these groups. Importantly, it also explores links to and associations with other criminal activities, such as human trafficking and other illicit trade, and how the income generated from the drug trade can undermine international development efforts, support insurgency and even finance terrorism.
Finally, this report shows clearly that any measures to reduce drug supply will be ineffective unless equal vigour is devoted to addressing the demand for illicit drugs and factors that foster involvement in the drug trade. The EU Drug Markets Report 2016 demonstrates the importance and the growing complexity of the problems we face in this area. I am also convinced, however, that the points for action it contains will make a valuable contribution to both European and national strategies to disrupt the drug market and reduce the harm it causes.
European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship