The South-East European sub-region covers the following countries:
Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Albania, Greece, Bulgaria and Romania.
Four of these countries (Greece, Bulgaria, Romania and Slovenia) are members of the EU, two of them (Croatia and FYR of Macedonia) are candidate countries and the rest are associate members of the EU. The political change in the 1990s and the recovery from the Yugoslavian wars that followed mark the change in the political situation and socio-economic development in the region. The legacy of the wars is a significant impediment to lasting security and stability in most of the countries of former Yugoslavia.
Two main trafficking routes pass through the countries in the region. The so-called northern Balkan route, passing through Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and then Austria to Western Europe and the southern Balkan route leading to Italy through Greece,
the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania. These routes are used for trafficking of heroin originating mainly from Afghanistan. In the last decade there has been a huge increase in the smuggling of cocaine. An increasing number of cocaine shipments from South America are transported to eastern European countries and consequently through the Balkan routes to Western Europe. Trafficking in precursors, on the other hand, follow the Balkan routes in the opposite direction destined for Afghanistan. Some of the countries in the region are main producers of cannabis herb (Albania, Montenegro, Serbia, and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia).
The most widely used illicit substance in the countries of the SEE –as in nearly all European countries- is cannabis. The official statistics show a lower than average use of cannabis compared with Western Europe, however the numbers of users is increasing. Heroin use is often associated with problematic forms of consumption, and as a result most of the treatment facilities and harm reduction measures are focused on heroin use. The situation in the prisons in almost all the countries in the region is problematic. A large number of those imprisoned are for drug-related offences. This is a serious problem for the penitentiary system. Strategies concerning living conditions in prisons, and the rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners in society must be improved. There is close cooperation with the European Monitoring Center (EMCDDA) not only with the EU member states but also with all the other countries in the region.
The EU adopted in 2003 the Action Plan on drugs between the EU, the Western Balkan Countries and the candidate countries. Efforts towards a close regional cooperation and coordination of strategies and actions plans on drugs have since then been undertaken, but there is not yet a consolidated situation.
The South-East European countries do not have a tradition of close cooperation with civil society initiatives. It is a challenge for NGOs in the region to built up relationships with the relevant authorities and become a serious partner in shaping just and effective drug policies. IDPC work in this region will focus on supporting civil society engagement with policy makers.