The presentation of the report “Organized crime and Terrorism in Poland – Threats and Convergence” took place in Warsaw, Poland on the 24th of July. The meeting was a result of cooperation between the Collegium Civitas University Centre for Research on Terrorism and the Casimir Pulaski Foundation. The seminar served as a starting point for the discussion on the preliminary report investigating the links between terrorism and organised crime in Poland, the risks posed by this conflation, and just as importantly developing a series of recommendations for mitigating those threats.
The report is a part of the Crime and Terror Nexus project, which will produce a series of 28 such papers, for all of the EU member states. Leading the discussion was Professor Peter Neumann, and and Rajan Basra from King’s College of London, alongside experts from the Casimir Pulaski Foundation and Collegium Civitas’ Centre for Research on Terrorism.
Even though at the present time terrorist activities in Poland are nearly non-existent, the same cannot be said of organized crime, which is very much alive and well throughout the EU. Unlike in many other European states however, organised crime in Poland is characterised by specialization in few areas, including tax fraud, money laundering and drug trafficking. Moreover, Poland has been a source, destination, and a transit country for human trafficking operations, whether for labor or sexual exploitation. Women and children from Eastern Europe – particularly Bulgaria, Romania, and Ukraine – are trafficked via Poland to destination countries in Western Europe and Scandinavia.
Elaborating further on the terrorist activities professor Neumann noted, that despite thousands of European born “foreign fighters” that have joined jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq, Poland has only been minimally affected by this phenomenon. The country has, however, recorded an influx of foreign fighters, who have used Poland as a transit point. There exists a possibility that “returnee” fighters from the Middle East may return to Europe via Poland and end up stranded in Central Europe, their presence constituting a major threat for those countries. Authorities in Warsaw are aware of this, especially in the context of the Polish-Ukrainian border, and have warned that the country could serve as a “reserve target” for jihadists returning from “high-risk countries”.
Even though Poland remains largely insulated from the hazards posed by jihadism, the Crime and Terror Nexus experts did recognise a potential danger posed by far-right extremism. While – at least in Central and Eastern Europe – far right extremism has not been known for its willingness to commit acts of political violence, Crime-Terror Nexus experts are of the opinion, that it does have the potential for further radicalisation.
In keeping, the government and other stakeholders in national defence and security apparatus should remain vigilant, and monitor these developments, in order to ensure that links between organized crime and terrorism do not emerge in the future.
According to the Crime-Terror Nexus, there are certain recommendations and good practices, which when implemented can help mitigate the risks associated with terrorism, as well as prevent the emergence of links between organised crime and terrorism. It is suggested that the authorities continue to periodically review their statistics on organized crime and terrorism, and meticulously monitor them in search of emerging ties between the two phenomena. This is particularly valid for personal and structural connections between organised crime and hooliganism, as well as the role of organized crime in human trafficking. Moreover, it is necessary to re-think radicalisation as a phenomenon that evades the traditionally recognised patterns of recruitment into terrorist cells. Depriving terrorist organization of their financing, which so frequently stems from criminal activities, should also take a central position among the preventive measures. As far as intelligence sharing is concerned, it is of paramount importance that all the relevant law enforcement agencies streamline and enhance their information sharing procedures.
To summarise, it is an imperative to review all the presently existing information sharing mechanisms, as well as ensure implementation of structural changes that would reflect the new and multi-dimensional nature of the threat posed by a nexus of organised crime and terror.
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