The Balkan route to Western Europe for Yugoslavia guns

Many weapons on Europe’s black market come via the Balkans. The terrorists in the Paris attacks allegedly used such weapons. The illegal arms trade from the Balkans is a security risk that affects all of Europe.

According to media reports, the November 13 Paris attackers used two Zastava M-70 assault rifles from the former Yugoslavia. And the trail of the weapons used in January’s attacks on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo also led to the Balkans. When a Kosovar terror cell in Italy and Kosovo was busted a few days ago, a large number of illegal weapons was found in a Kosovar village.

After the former Yugoslavia’s conflicts in the 1990s – and the looting of an arms depot in Albania in 1997 – a wide range of Balkan arms have entered Europe’s black market. The prices vary: While a Kalashnikov can cost between 300 and 500 euro ($325-540) in the Balkans, the price goes up to 2000 euro in some countries.

According to a study by the Flemish Peace Institute in Brussels, the majority of the illegal weapons in the European Union have been smuggled via the Balkan countries. “We’re talking about Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Albania – you could say that many of these countries have a problem with illegal weapons,” the study’s co-author Nils Duquet told DW. “These are weapons that fell into people’s hands after the Balkan wars. According to our research, we can say that in all the Western Balkan countries, there are more illegal weapons than legal ones.”

That poses a problem for security in all of Europe. Ivan Zverzhanovski, a Belgrade-based expert with the Southeastern and Eastern Europe Clearinghouse for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SEESAC), a UN organization, is concerned about possible links between the weapons trade and terrorist groups. Zverzhanovski fears that the Balkans are becoming a cheap source of weapons for a variety of terror cells in Europe: “We don’t know how the Paris attackers got their weapons. But there are a great number of illegal weapons being circulated in the Balkans, and we know that there are links between secondary buyers, organized crime, and terrorists.”

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