Drugs, counterfeit materials, weapons, currencies and people: these materials constitute the bulk of “commodities” in which transnational organized crime groups make their trade. The 20th century conception of cartels operating in one region with one product (whether that product is drugs or arms, for example) is now an anachronism. And new commodities (like bioware and computer viruses) and clients (like terrorists) add to and complicate even further this trade. Globalization and technological connectivity have combined to supersize the ambition of transnational syndicates: their scope is international, multi-disciplinary and sophisticated enough to pose a true threat to state integrity.
Despite overall indices that show decreases in some forms of illicit trafficking—as in the distribution and use of cocaine—the diversification of crime networks ensures that any decreases are substituted by increases in other items (like the unprecedented proliferation of new psychoactive substances [NPT]) in order to maintain profitability. What distinguishes organized crime groups today is the importance of how they sell over what they sell. New logistics systems and new routes characterize this transformation. Transnational crime groups are adopting the supply chain mechanics of giant online retailers and opening new routes through Africa and elsewhere by exploiting the corruption and conflict of weakened states to get products into the affluent markets of Northern Europe.
Southern European states have become important staging grounds for illicit flows from the Western Hemisphere into Europe via Africa. Their ports and harbors serve as entry and transshipment hubs. But the fragmentation they are currently experiencing as a result of almost five years of austerity measures after the financial crises of 2008/2009 plays a key role in how their relationship with transnational organized crime groups will evolve.
This visual summary available here is the publically accessible component of a series of research deliverables created for the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Netherlands’ Ministry of Defense on the future of transnational crime and its spread through Southern Europe.