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drug trafficking

EU warned that organised crime is 'as big a threat' as terrorism

The EU’s home affairs commissioner gave the warning today at a major drug smuggling hub.

ORGANISED CRIME POSES as big a threat to countries in the European Union as terrorism, the bloc’s home affairs commissioner said today.

Ylva Johansson, who oversees the EU’s internal security policy, issued the warning while visiting the Belgian port of Antwerp, which has become the biggest gateway for cocaine into Europe.

“I should say that today, the threat we are facing from organised crime to society is as big as the terrorist threat,” Johansson told a press conference.

“We must fight it with the same energy, commitment and determination.”

The Swedish commissioner said that in her homeland 90 bomb attacks and 388 shootings had left at least 61 dead last year, and that drug trafficking was largely to blame.

The Scandinavian nation – which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency – has made bolstering the fight against organised crime one of the priorities of its six months at the helm.

Johansson underscored the level of the problem by pointing to threats made against Belgium’s Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte by criminal groups.

Belgian authorities seized a record haul of almost 110 tonnes of cocaine at Antwerp port last year, and the drug trade has caused a spike in armed violence.

In January, an 11-year-old girl was killed when an assailant opened fire on a residential home in the city.

Johansson is set to unveil proposals in April to help tackle official corruption across the EU that often plays a key role in facilitating trafficking.

The top EU official will also head later this month to Ecuador and Colombia with Belgium’s interior minister to try to bolster cooperation with cocaine-producing nations.

“It is clear that these organised criminal groups are cross border, they are international, and that is why we need an international cooperation,” Johansson said.

“To fight a network you need a network.”

Belgium’s interior minister Annelies Verlinden, speaking at the same event, said her country was stepping up its work with Latin American countries.

But she slammed a lack of extraditions from the United Arab Emirates, where she said “drug barons are hiding”.

– © AFP 2023

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