The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, Italy add Spain have agreed to bolster their cooperation with Latin American nations to fight organised crime, specifically drug trafficking.
During a meeting of ministers and officials on Friday in Amsterdam, a city hit by drug-related violence in recent years, the six countries pledged to strengthen ports and maritime security, as well as reinforce their use of technology to tackle crime gangs.
Amsterdam saw a series of violent crimes in the last few years, including the slaying of crime reporter Peter R. de Vries and a lawyer representing a witness in a gangland killings investigation.
The Netherlands and Belgium are home to the major ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp, two of Europe's main entry points for cocaine.
More than 214 tons of the drug were seized in Europe in 2020, a 6% increase from the previous year, and experts from the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction believe that amount could reach 300 tons this year.
Belgian Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne, who attended the meeting, was put under protection last month after four people were arrested due to their suspected links to drug criminals that were plotting of kidnapping the politician.
“I think we’ve entered in a new phase, a new phase called narco-terrorism, a phase where the narco-terrorists try to destabilize the society and get their grip on society," said Van Quickenborne.
"And of course, we will never allow our countries to become narco-states like you see them sometimes in Latin America.”
With a street value estimated at 10.5 billion euros in 2020 and about 3.5 million European citizens reporting having used it in the past year, cocaine is the second-most used drug in the EU after cannabis.
The expansion of the cocaine market has gone hand in hand with a rise in violence and corruption in the EU, with fierce competition between traffickers leading to a rise in homicides and intimidation.
“Criminals do not know borders, so we have to work together,” Van Quickenborne said after the meeting that was also attended by representatives from European Union police and justice agencies Europol and Eurojust, along with officials from the European Commission.