Risk Bulletin Download PDF

Observatory of Illicit Economies in South Eastern Europe

Issue
4
January–February
2021

Summary highlights

  1. Vranje, an emerging criminal hotspot.

    Since 2019, the name of one city keeps popping up in media and police reports about drug trafficking and migrant smuggling: Vranje, in southern Serbia. We look at how and why Vranje has become a hotspot for organized crime.

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  2. Guns for gangs in Sweden: the Balkan connection.

    The notorious Yugoslav mafia, the ‘Juggemaffian’, that dominated the organized crime landscape in Sweden in the 1990s is long gone, but Sweden continues to feel the impact of organized crime from the Western Balkans. A spate of deadly gang- related violence in the past few years is fuelled in part by guns and grenades from the Balkans.

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  3. Taking a gamble in North Macedonia.

    While Albania and Kosovo have taken steps since 2019 to abolish gambling in their countries because of its links to organized crime, the number of electronic casinos and betting shops in North Macedonia has doubled. Gambling is potentially lucrative, but it brings with it risks associated with addiction, money laundering and the potential harm to historic tourist destinations such as Ohrid.

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  4. Islands of resilience: civil society organizations in the Western Balkans.

    These are hard times for civil society organizations (CSOs) in the Western Balkans. In many places, CSOs dealing with organized crime and corruption are under pressure from governments and threatened by people involved in corrupt or illicit activity. Furthermore, the COVID-19 crisis has made it difficult for CSOs to have face-to-face contact with many of the individuals and groups that they normally work with, like women, youth, former prisoners or addicts. We explore some of the challenges and opportunities for strengthening resilience to organized crime and corruption in the Western Balkans, based on a cross-regional workshop held in mid-December 2020 and the findings of a forthcoming Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC) report.

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  5. Neostart, a place for a second chance.

    There are about 12 000 prisoners in Serbia; around 8 000 of them are released from prison each year. Yet the rate of recidivism is between 60% and 75%, meaning that many will end up back in prison. Neostart, a centre for crime prevention and post-penal assistance, is a non-governmental organization in Serbia that is reducing recidivism by helping former offenders reintegrate into society. We talk to its director, Darjan Vulevic, about their work and challenges and successes.

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About this issue

Happy New Year! Welcome to the fourth issue of the Risk Bulletin produced by the Civil Society Observatory to Counter Organized Crime in South Eastern Europe. As in every issue, we look at a hotspot of organized crime. This month we focus on Vranje, a city in southern Serbia that has recently emerged as a hub for drug trafficking and the smuggling of migrants.

Over the past few years, Sweden has witnessed an increase in gang-related violence. We examine Sweden’s Balkan connection, namely the smuggling of guns and grenades.

Albania and Kosovo have significantly reduced gambling in their countries in the past two years, not least due to concerns about its links to organized crime and money laundering. But North Macedonia is taking a different approach, as witnessed by a doubling in the number of gambling establishments since 2019. We look at the potential risks associated with this policy.

In addition to highlighting risks, resilience is a regular feature of our Risk Bulletin, particularly the work being done by civil society organizations in the Western Balkans to counteract corruption and organized crime. From 14 to 16 December 2020, the GI-TOC brought together more than 50 representatives of non-governmental organizations from the six Western Balkan countries to discuss the challenges and opportunities for strengthening resilience to organized crime and corruption in the region. In this issue, we report on some of the highlights of this discussion. More findings will be published in a report titled ‘Stronger together: Bolstering resilience among civil society in the Western Balkans’, which will be published in early February 2021.

In our monthly profile of civil society organizations dealing with crime-related issues, we talk with the director of Neostart, Darjan Vulevic, about the work of his non-governmental organization in helping former prisoners reintegrate into Serbian society.

We are always interested in ideas for contributions to the Risk Bulletin and offer authors an honorarium. If you have a proposal for a story or would like to provide feedback, please contact Kristina.Amerhauser@globalinitiative.net.