The Foreign Policy Passport blog has an excellent review on the lengthy United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime report on the changing nature of criminal activities in the Balkans. These countries that are struggling with an economic transition at the same time with a post-war trauma have lower violent crime rates than Western Europe but increasingly make their living on supplying Western demand for drugs, sex and low-pay immigrant workers. The document is a compelling case for the swift integration of the Western Balkan countries into the EU and NATO and not the other way around.
The lack of profitable economic activities in a war-struck, collapsed planned economy makes an ideal environment for highly organized crime. The lack of proper stately and municipal institutions, especially in territories where sovereignty is disputed, like in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia and Kosovo gives rise to alternative, illegal institutions that provide the population with work, income and basic social security. This worrying trend will be more and more difficult to revert as the case of Southern Italy has proven in the 20th century. Two data sets make the case for this: the Balkan countries have much stronger police forces in sheer numbers than Western European ones still crime victims turn to the police for justice significantly less often.
I strongly believe that any conclusion that would segregate and not integrate the region into Europe is mistaken. These worrying criminal patterns cannot be distanced from the European Union, because this is not an exogenous criminal activity: it is almost entirely funded and driven by European Union demand. For instance, the turnover of heroin trade is valued at $25 to 30 billion – more than the annual GDPs of Albania, Macedonia, and Moldova put together. The drugs go to the EU, the money comes from the EU and not the other way around.
I think that enlargement is the only possible solution to this deepening problem. Depriving Kosovo of a proper statehood and bullying Macedonia are unacceptable because they have a bad affect on the whole of Europe. The Balkan countries need rule of law, a properly functioning legal economy, market and transport infrastructure to export their legal products. In a traumatized post-war economic transition society help to build up a new economic and social model can only come from the European Union. The type of criminal activities are exactly the ones than could be much better tackled within the Schengen zone than locally, because they have a European-wide, international nature. I think Europe should concentrate some of its resources that is spend on fighting drugs, illegal work and prostitution at home to give an alternative to the middlemen in South Eastern Europe.Dániel Antal