Balkan countries score poorly on the 2021 Global Organized Crime Index.

On 28 September 2021, the GI-TOC issued the Global Organized Crime Index, the result of several years of research involving over 350 experts worldwide, covering all 193 member states of the United Nations. The Index is based on in-depth analyses of criminal markets and actors. According to its level of criminality, a country is assigned a score from one to 10, where one indicates a market or actor type is either non-existent or negligible in their impact and 10 signifies that no aspect of society goes unaffected by organized crime.

The Index also measures the resilience of a country to organized crime, namely the ability of state and non-state actors to withstand and disrupt organized criminal activities as a whole, rather than individual markets, through political, economic, legal and social measures. Here too, states are assigned a score that ranges from one to 10, but the scale is inverted in this case: a one signifies the lack of adequate resilience mechanisms and a 10 implies the presence of highly effective measures to counter organized crime and its impact.

Assessing the level of criminality in conjunction with resilience levels, rather than focusing solely on the pervasiveness of illicit economies and criminal actors, provides for an analysis of vulnerability through a multi-dimensional lens. For example, a country like North Macedonia may have a relatively high criminality score (5.31 compared to the global average of 4.88), but this is partly offset by a relatively high resilience score (5.21 compared to the global average of 4.82).

Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina respectively rank second (behind Russia), fourth and fifth, in the criminality ranking for all of Europe. Montenegro’s problems are compounded by a relatively low resilience score of 4.46, while Bosnia and Herzegovina has one of the lowest resilience scores in all of Europe (3.92), and ranks just 138th in the world in terms of resilience to organized crime.

The picture is slighter better for the countries of south-eastern Europe that are members of the European Union. Slovenia, Croatia and Romania scored relatively high levels of resilience, while most EU countries from the region have relatively low levels of criminality. Bulgaria is an exception, with a criminality score of 5.43 that ranks it 10th in Europe.

Since Kosovo is not a full member of the United Nations, it was not officially included as part of the Index rankings. However, the country underwent the same amount of scrutiny and was assessed during the various verification rounds that underpin the tool. Kosovo* is thus assigned a criminality score of 5.19 (the lowest of the WB6) and a relatively low resilience score of 4.42 (the second-lowest, behind Bosnia and Herzegovina).

Although Kosovo has established alternative channels of international cooperation, the fact that the country is not officially recognized serves to limit the available anti-organized crime cooperation mechanisms.

The Index also enables users to identify regional characteristics and trends. For example, in the Balkans, high criminality scores are evident for human smuggling and heroin trafficking, both scoring a mean average of 6.25 for the WB6, well above the continental mean of 4.73 and 4.41, respectively, while cannabis (5.91) and cocaine (5.66) trafficking scores are higher than the European mean by 0.81 and 0.84, respectively.

One of the most troubling findings of the Index is that state-embedded actors are the most dominant criminal actor type in the world. The degree to which criminality permeates state institutions varies from low-level corruption to full state capture, but across the spectrum this involvement has implications for the capacity of countries to respond to organized crime.

While this risk is relatively low in western Europe, the average score of state-embedded actors in central and eastern Europe reaches 6.76 (with peaks of 8 in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia). This is alarming, since one of the strongest correlations emerging from the Index was found to be between the presence of state-embedded criminal actors and poor resilience, which suggests that those actors may be undermining the capacity and resilience of the state to prevent illicit flows.

While the Index provides the first-ever global measure-ment of organized crime, it is not designed to only be a comparative research tool. It strives to provide metrics-based information that can allow policymakers, practitioners and other stakeholders to be better informed while developing strategies to counter organized crime in their countries and/or regions. It is anticipated that the Index will be updated every two years.

To access the full report and individual country profiles, visit