Balkan Criminology – Focus on Organised Crimes and Illegal Markets: Sex, Guns and “Balkan Rock ’n’ Roll”

The project aims at expanding existing and creating new empirically-based knowledge about the phenomenology and etiology of organised crime and illegal markets in the Balkans. It would be a lifetime endeavour to investigate organised crime and illegal markets in general terms, as just a literature review on such a broad topic would prove to be a scientific milestone. The research project shall therefore focus on specific types of illegal products/services and their respective markets, since it is the illegal product with its market that shapes the profit-oriented criminal groups. Depending on the product/service and the market, criminal activities vary tremendously in their complexity, structure, scope and level of organisation. For the purpose of the project, two ‘hard core’ types of organised criminal services and their respective illegal markets have been chosen: illegal prostitution & the illicit sex market and arms trafficking & the illicit weapons market. These will be analysed, empirically documented and explained in the specific context of Balkan criminal policy, with the objective to find out who the criminal entrepreneurs are and how they operate and cooperate, who the customers and victims are, how the illegal markets function and what role self-regulatory market mechanisms play, how illegal markets and organised criminal groups react to legal reforms and how social change influences crime.

Prostitution seems to be a total taboo in the Balkans, especially in terms of criminological research. Although illegal (though providing sexual services in exchange for money is slightly decriminalised), prostitution and the illicit sex market in the Balkans have so far attracted limited attention. This was either in connection with the flourishing of the illegal sex market due to the presence of international military troops approximately 10 years ago, or related to the more recent and growing interest in the trafficking in human beings. The later topic, when related to prostitution, may well be characterised as ‘THB Hype’, since the connection is completely out of proportion, at least in Croatia and according to police data. A detailed empirical analysis of the Balkan sex markets is desperately needed and will not only deal with the current ‘THB Hype’, but also shed some light on a current taboo.

The global value of the illegal trade in firearms has been estimated between $170 and $320 million per year, whereas specifically for the EU, let alone the Balkans, there are currently no good estimates available. The lack of good estimates at a regional level highlights the significance of conducting empirical research in this field. Furthermore, the issue of arms trafficking in the aftermath of large-scale conflicts should be of particular relevance for the Balkans, but again little is known about the illegal weapon market, its scope, the dealers, traffickers, customers or products. The research project aims at answering these questions.

Finally, an important part of the phenomenology of prostitution and arms trafficking in the Balkans is Balkan criminal policy itself. This is related to the Balkan specific context, where high levels of corruption and inconsistent criminal policy create a setting suitable for operating illegal markets. Criminal policy strategies and action plans are produced (but seldom honestly implemented) in the same rhythm as law enforcement officials move up and down and up again in hierarchy, creating a ‘beat’ resembling rather an easy listening rock ’n’ roll song than a well-orchestrated symphony which one would expect in the area of criminal policy. How exactly this ‘Balkan Rock ’n’ Roll’ hinders effective law enforcement and influences illegal markets and organised criminal groups is a question the project intends to answer.

MPPG contact for Balkan Rock ’n’ Roll: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Anna-Marie Getoš Kalac