Increasing stability across the Balkans after years of turmoil following the break-up of Yugoslavia has led to a sharp drop in crime across the region, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reports.
In a study issued yesterday in Vienna, UNODC found that murder, robbery, rape, burglary and assault rates are now generally lower in the Balkans than in Western Europe, and that the number of murders is falling across the region.
“The vicious circle of political instability leading to crime, and vice versa, that plagued the Balkans in the 1990s has been broken,” UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa said in a press statement following the report’s release.
The report points to greater regional stability and democracy, the end of war profiteering and assistance from the international community, especially the European Union, as key reasons for the fall in crime.
Organized crime is also receding as a major threat, with the smuggling of humans, drugs and guns declining, although the Balkans is still an important transit zone for heroin destined for Western Europe.
Mr. Costa said that “while serious problems remain, the region is departing from an era when demagogues, secret police and thugs profited from sanctions-busting and smuggling.”
But he added that enduring links between business, politics and organized crime leaves the region vulnerable to instability, and he urged tougher efforts to fight such crimes as bribery, counterfeiting, money-laundering and fraud.