Significant amounts of cigarettes are probably produced illegally inside the EU, according to an EU Commission answer to a question posed by MEP Georgios Papanikolaou.
In 2010, five illicit factories were discovered and, in 2011, member states discovered nine illicit factories estimated to have a combined production capacity of more than nine million cigarettes per day, the Commission advised.
Papanikolaou had asked whether the Commission had estimates of illicit tobacco products produced and distributed within the EU.
And he had asked what were the main countries of origin of contraband cigarettes and their main destinations in the EU.
According to available data, the main sources of smuggled tobacco products were, in order of importance: China, UAE, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Russian Federation, Singapore, Belarus and Ukraine, the Commission said.
China continued to be the source country for the majority of seized cigarettes.
And Greece appeared to be a major target for entries of shipments from China and UAE.
‘The EU Eastern Border Anti-Smuggling Action Plan has had already some positive impacts; the share of illicit trade and inflows of illicit cigarettes in this region has decreased,’ the Commission said. ‘However, the EU Eastern border continues to be a target for illicit trade, particularly the Baltic region. The main countries of provenance there are Russia, Ukraine and, increasingly, Belarus.’
The Commission said that almost all member states could be considered final destinations for contraband cigarettes, in particular Ireland and the UK. Other countries, especially Greece, Spain, Italy and Poland were both transit countries and final destinations.
Illicit trade is still increasing in the EU, something the Commission addresses in its communication: Stepping-up the fight against cigarette smuggling and other forms of illicit trade in tobacco products – A comprehensive EU strategy.