Transnational Organized Crime
and Conflict in the Balkans
Thomas Köppel and Agnes Székely
Organized crime in the Balkans is intimately connected with the conflicts there. While in the United States and Europe links between the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and organized crime groups have received a large amount of publicity, the problem actually predates the current round of conflict in Kosovo and surrounding areas. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the influx of immigrants from Yugoslavia into Western Europe, especially Germany, Switzerland, and Scandinavia, brought with it crime, mainly drug trafficking and distribution. In the heated discussion of Kosovo Albanian criminals and their networks, it is often forgotten that other transnational criminal organizations originate in the Balkans, from Serbia, Montenegro and Bulgaria. 1 The origins of transnational organized crime in the Balkans have not been investigated in great depth (East European Constitutional Review 1997). Most studies in organized crime have centered on better-known groups, like the Italian mafia or Russian organized crime. Transnational organized crime in the Balkans is complex, with diverse actors and multifaceted structures. This chapter analyzes and explains some of its facets.
History and politics have provided especially fertile ground for the growth of transnational organized crime in the Balkans. Centuries of foreign rule and decades of communism have left civil society weak, and prevented the establishment of transparent and stable political structures. The resurgence of nationalism, the spread of conflict in the successor states of the former Yugoslavia, the breakdown of government power in