The impact of COVID-19 on organised crime in the Western Balkans

This report from UK think tank IISS looks at how the Western Balkans governments can use the current circumstances to redefine medium and long term priorities.

Criminal organisations active in the Western Balkans have proved very apt at exploiting the evolution of the pandemic and related government responses to expand their activities regionally and globally. The key role played by the European Union in recent times to promote the rule of law and institutional reforms against organised crime in the region is at risk of setback given its limited economic firepower post-COVID-19 and China’s increasing influence through its economic and investment diplomacy. Law-enforcement agencies will struggle to prevent criminal groups from further infiltrating the region’s economies amid increasing budgetary constraints. Western Balkans governments should use the current challenging circumstances as an opportunity to redefine medium- and long-term priorities in their efforts against organised crime. However, for these efforts to be successful, the sustained political and operational support of other countries will be needed, given the expanding international reach of regional criminal groups.

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