NEWS

EU crime expanding

The EU’s police agency, Europol, says in its report on 2002 that organized crime is a «significant threat» to the Union and is set to become even bigger with the bloc’s expansion eastward. Some chief sources of trouble, such as Albania and Turkey, border on Greece. Yesterday, the EU ministers of justice and home affairs met in Brussels and discussed the issue of organized crime and initiatives to combat it. This is becoming one of the EU’s priorities, especially in view of the fact that its borders will be expanding eastward in May. The Europol report warns that there are 3,000 known organized crime gangs involving some 30,000 people of various nationalities. But, Europol says, these numbers are simply indicative of a problem that is believed to be much greater. The principal gangs operating in the EU, it said, are from Albania, Turkey, Russia, Colombia, Nigeria and China. Multinational gangs appear to be the latest trend in organized crime, while gangs from outside Europe are also making inroads here, Europol says. It notes that developments in telecommunications and new technologies have allowed organized crime to develop in leaps and bounds as the gangs appear to adapt to changes with remarkable speed. The gangs’ favored sectors of interest are the narcotics trade, trafficking in women and immigrants, contraband cigarettes, counterfeiting and child pornography. Things are set to get worse, the report warns, as the EU’s enlargement will bring its borders up to those of Russia, Ukraine and Moldova, all of which are considered sources or centers of the smuggling of goods and people. The rackets in these countries will be right next to the EU at a time when it appears that stricter border controls do not appear to be sufficient to deter organized crime. Europol considers Albanian gangs to be a significant threat, as they quickly managed to gain influence over the entire EU, pushing aside other criminal groups. They are considered to be among the most violent and to use Albanian communities in the diaspora as cover. Turkish and Russian gangs also are said to play a significant role. Countries that are politically and economically unstable have been infiltrated by criminal gangs that use them as bases, the report said. These include Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, another neighbor of Greece.