Organised crime a destabilising force in the Balkan states France_Presse - 2003/9/8
SOFIA, Sept 7: Trafficking in arms, drugs, humans and stolen goods is destabilising the Balkan states and straining their ties with the West, a conference in Bulgaria on security in southeastern Europe heard yesterday.
"Our countries are not integrated with the West but our gangsters are," Albanian Defence Minister Pandeli Majko told the meeting, which opened in Sofia yesterday.
"It means that the mafia here has better links with the mafia in the West than we have with our colleagues in the West," he added.
Bulgaria's Centre for the Study of Democracy meanwhile submitted a report suggesting that organised crime in the region followed a geographical "division of labour", with Albanians and Turks controlling the heroin trade while Serbian and Russian gangs specialise in contract killings.
The crime problem had its political roots in the bitter wars that gripped the region in the 1990s, said James Pardew, US ambassador to Sofia.