The Dark Side of Globalization: Transnational Crime in Europe     Print Email
Wednesday, 06 August 2008

In textbooks, globalization may have its good sides and less-good sides, but there are no redeeming features to the dark side of globalization - organized crime with global reach.


To get a ripe taste of this dark underbelly of globalization and its spread in Europe, dip into the latest book by Misha Glenny, a journalist who gained international attention with his reporting on the horrors of wars and bloodshed in the collapse of the former Yugoslavia. In McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld, Glenny makes the case, all too convincingly, that Eastern Europe, with its new and fragile democratic systems, has become the gateway for criminal syndicates that match the best multinationals in their professional skills in exploiting the new potential for illicit goods and services to pass borders with the freedom enjoyed by normal trade.

According to Glenny, the “global shadow economy” now accounts for 15-20% of the world’s economic transactions and its epicenter resides in new EU states where governments are still trying to organize their defenses against the criminal spillover from the collapse of the Soviet empire.

Glenny’s book of reportage and analysis is reviewed by Michael Mosettig, a foreign affairs producer at the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, in the forthcoming issue of European Affairs. He starts by admiring Glenny’s title - “McMafia” - as a way of evoking “[their] global reach as criminal ‘corporations’ aspire to penetrate markets the world over - mirroring the global goals of legal entities such as McDonald’s.”

In this global overview, Glenny implicates Europe in McMafia’s success because it provides the market for illegal labor, drugs and illicit goods. This traffic uses the Balkan states as a highway, but other Eastern and Central European states play their roles, too, as gateways for criminal activity to enter the EU. Glenny makes it clear that, so far, EU crime-fighting strategies have failed to curb McMafia’s activities. Just last week, Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn confirmed that the EU may freeze millions of euros in aid to Bulgaria because of its government’s inadequate efforts to fight the organized crime and corruption which has flooded the country.

Preview Mosettig’s review of McMafia on the European Institute’s website.

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UMD Jean Monnet Research Project

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The Bertelsmann Foundation is an independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit think tank in Washington, DC with a transatlantic perspective on global challenges.

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