In summary, the organised crime situation in the Balkans is rooted in the instability generated by the simultaneous impacts of political transition and conflict. War profiteering and unregulated privatisation led to the rapid rise of criminals with high-level political and commercial linkages. The final outcome of the conflicts has still not been determined, with both Bosnia and Herzegovina and the province of Kosovo remaining under international stewardship. But some years have passed since the peak of the conflict. The region has seen the launch of intensive reform programmes and received a good deal of assistance to support the establishment of security and justice. As the region stabilises, positive change in the organised crime situation should be anticipated.
Organised crime today
Assessing trends in organised crime is challenging. Organised crime is even more difficult to measure than conventional crime, because its detection is almost entirely reliant on state action. Failure to act could be due to lack of capacity or it could be due to corruption. In either case, the very places where organised crime is likely to be the worst are the same places where little activity is likely to be registered. Every organised crime arrest or contraband seizure sends a mixed message: it shows that organised crime is present, but it also shows that something is being done about the problem. In South East Europe, indications are that something is, indeed, being done about the problem. All countries of the region have ratified the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. Albania, one of the poorest countries in Europe, investigated more organised crime suspects per capita in 2003 than Italy, a country that has taken the lead in combating transnational criminality. Romania employed 9.9 organised crime investigators per 100,000 citizens in 2004, compared to Italy’s 0.4. While more research would be required to determine the quality and character of these investigations, these numbers suggest that the organised crime problem is being taken seriously by the governments of South East Europe. Of course, investigations alone will not solve organised crime problems. In fact, in areas where law enforcement corruption is an issue, arrests and seizures may reflect nothing more than the pruning of competitors or unreliable business contacts. To measure whether the organised crime situation in South East Europe is improving, it is necessary to refer to crime statistics collected outside the region, in the countries of demand, for each of the major contraband markets.