New European agency to tackle cocaine trade
By Axel Bugge
Sunday, 30 September 2007
LISBON, Sept 30 (Reuters) – Seven west European countries on Sunday
launched an agency to tackle the ever-changing routes whereby South
American cocaine finds its way onto European streets, particularly via
The Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre – Narcotics (MAOC-N) will
help national authorities work together to catch cocaine shipments, often
through high stakes operations on the open seas.
Cocaine use has tripled in Europe in the past decade to become the second
most used drug in Europe after cannabis and the vast majority of it
passes into the EU through Iberia — Spain and Portugal.
“We are the Atlantic border of Europe,” Portuguese Justice Minister
Alberto Costa said during a ceremony to inaugurate the agency. It was
signed by Portugal, Ireland, France, Italy, Spain, Britain and the
About 70 tonnes of cocaine was seized by Spain and Portugal in 2006 out
of about 100 tonnes seized in the whole of Europe.
The decision to establish the agency was in large part a reaction to the
growing use of West Africa by South American drug runners as a staging
post to Europe.
“Concern about the growing importance of the African western coast in
this trade is one of the raisons d’etre of this centre,” said Costa.
Law enforcement authorities in Portugal have pointed to Nigeria and
especially Guinea Bissau as countries South American cocaine passes
through on its way to Europe.
COLOMBIANS IN GUINEA BISSAU
A U.N. official warned last week that Guinea-Bissau could “explode” if
the international community does not help stop Latin American drug
traffickers from overrunning the country.
Arrests of Colombians in Guinea-Bissau have prompted concerns that the
FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) left-wing guerrilla group
has established itself there in order to extend drug financing of its
operations at home.
“Whether they are FARC members of not I couldn’t say for sure, but
clearly we know there are Colombians down there (in West Africa),” said
Tim Manhire, the executive director of the new agency.
Manhire said this was one angle the agency would pursue with U.S.
authorities that are more familiar in dealing with Colombian militants in
their use of the drug trade to finance conflict. The U.S. has
observer status at the agency.
“Clearly we will be looking to work with our American colleagues at
trying to intervene in that environment,” Manhire said.
The price of cocaine has fallen sharply in Europe in recent years,
suggesting more of it is reaching Europe, according to the European
Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addicition, which is also based in