The report “Crooked Kaleidoscope – Organized Crime in the Balkans” by the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime, urges countries and organizations that have invested so much economically and politically over the past 25 years to stay engaged in the region and help it avoid back-sliding. In particular, it calls for stronger measures to fight corruption, enhance justice, and go after the proceeds of crime rather than just focusing on police reform.

The political consequences of crime

The report highlights the impact of organized crime on stability in the Balkans. It highlights how war economies funded by illicit activity have transformed into close networks between political, business and criminal elites. It highlights the vulnerabilities and opportunities of such elites within the context of renewed geo-political competition within the region. It calls for greater attention to the political economy of post-conflict environments to take advantage of a “golden hour” before groups involved in armed violence dominate criminal markets and capture state structures. The report also looks at the nexus between ethnicity, crime and conflict – and how apparent inter-ethnic rivalries may mask collusion among the same groups engaged in illicit activity. It reviews multi-lateral responses to organized crime in the past twenty-five years, and make recommendations for a more effective approach to tackling the threat. It warns of the unpredictable impact of the criminalization of national interest on the governance of the affected states, as well as regional stability.

The “Crooked Kaleidoscope”

This report illustrates that in the Balkans things are not always what they seem. When first looking through the hole of the kaleidoscope, certain shapes appear. Turn the kaleidoscope, and while some of the figures may be the same, the impression changes. Such is the Balkans: what might look like an ethnic conflict is actually a diversion from high-level bi-ethnic collusion. Someone who looks like a businessman one day may be a politician or a crook the next. With one quick twist, a calm image can fracture into myriad pieces. Friends may betray you, while enemies may assist you. This is the crooked kaleidoscope of organized crime in the Balkans.


About The author: Walter Kemp is a Senior Fellow at the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime. He is particularly interested in the relationship between organized crime and conflict. While at the International Peace Institute (IPI), he led a project called “Peace without Crime” which looked at the impact of organized crime on peace operations, and what to do about it. He has also been Spokesman and Speechwriter at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and has more than ten years of experience in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). 

Crooked Kaleidoscope – Organized Crime in the Balkans

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Walter Kemp

Walter Kemp is particularly focused on GI’s work in South Eastern Europe, and bigger picture issues like dealing with the impact of drugs in urban environments as well as the relationship between crime and conflict. Before joining GI, Walter was head of the Strategic Policy Support Unit at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Between 2010 and 2016 he worked at the International Peace Institute (IPI) where he led the Institute’s “Peace without Crime” project. Previously he served for four years as spokesman and speechwriter at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Between 1996 and 2006 he was at the OSCE, including as Senior Adviser to the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities and Senior Adviser to the Secretary General and OSCE Chairmanships. Walter, who is Canadian, has a PhD in international relations from the London School of Economics, as well as degrees in political science and history from the University of Toronto and McGill University. In addition to his work at GI, he is a Special Adviser to the Cooperative Security Initiative. He also teaches at the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna.

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