Belgium: Europe's drug market hub, says report

Belgium: Europe's drug market hub, says report
Belgium is playing an enlarged role in a fast-growing European drug market, an EU report showed. Credit: Belga

Belgium has overtaken Spain as the hub of the fast-growing European drug market, as the availability of narcotics in the Continent reaches an "all-time high," according to a European Union (EU) report.

The report shows that Belgium is playing an enlarged role in both the distribution and production markets of cocaine, methamphetamines and other illicit drugs, such as ketamine and GBL.

The report was published by the EU's drug agency, and it examines data from 2017.

That year, 45 tons of cocaine were seized in the port of Antwerp, placing Belgium just ahead of Spain, where 41 tons of the drug were seized in 2017.

The high number of cocaine entering through the Belgian port —Europe's second-largest, behind Rotterdam's— indicates that Belgium is at the heart of a "reorganisation of the cocaine supply chain" in the continent.

"A large portion of the drugs found in Antwerp had a different final destination," Alex Goosdeel, director of the EU agency, told De Morgen.

The report also shows that Belgium, together with the Netherlands, is one of the main production centres for MDMA, echoing a previous study which found that Belgium was the country where the psychoactive pills were the cheapest.

While no active laboratories were found in Belgium in 2017, the report says that a 2018 wastewater study suggests that the high concentration of chemical residue from MDMA production found in the country's sewage water signals that "the drug continues to be produced" in the country.

A sharp increase in the amount of ketamine, GBL and LSD seizures was also registered in Belgium, as it accounted for almost half of the total GBL seized in the whole of the EU.

As a whole, the European drug market is undergoing an "Uberisation" phenomenon, as innovative distribution strategies paired with strategic smartphone and social media use have facilitated the development of fast drug delivery services across Europe.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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