The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and Europol have published the ‘EU Drug Markets Report 2019’, a third comprehensive overview of illicit drug markets in the European Union.

The 260-page report reads, among other things, that heroin is being shipped from Turkey to the EU Member States via three different branches of the Balkan route, one of which is passing through Bosnia and Herzegovina.

According to the report, the route from Afghanistan through Iran, Turkey and Balkan countries represents the shortest distance and the most direct land route to European consumer markets, and it has continued to be the key corridor for the trafficking of heroin to the EU and for other drugs and acetic anhydride in the other direction.

Turkey is crucial to the Balkan route, and Istanbul is a key location for the orchestration of heroin shipments to the EU. In 2017, Turkey seized the largest quantity of heroin in the last decade, following a period marked by a significant decline in seizures, probably caused by both external and internal factors”, reads the report.

Heroin may be shipped from Turkey to EU markets using three branches of the Balkan route. The southern branch runs through Greece, Albania and/or Italy, using both sea and land transportation. The central branch runs through Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia, and into Italy or Austria, essentially by land. The northern branch runs from Bulgaria and Romania to Hungary, Austria, Czechia, Poland or Germany, also by land”, the authors explained.

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The information available suggests that heroin mainly enters the EU at land border-crossing points in Bulgaria and Greece. “In some cases, heroin is temporarily stored in warehouses in the Balkan region before being transported onwards”, the report reads.

Authors of the report concluded that although the Balkan route was considered the most active smuggling route for heroin, the interdiction rate was quite low along the portion of the Balkan route located in Europe, relative to the large quantities of heroin seized in Iran and Turkey.

This suggests that heroin trafficking through the Balkans is well organized, but may also benefit from poor enforcement and even possibly corruption among law enforcement officials”, the report concludes.

Europol information also suggests that the Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian organized crime groups are increasingly involved in the indoor cultivation and trafficking of herbal cannabis within the EU.