On 18th April, the Guardian reported that a new survey co-ordinated by the Flemish Peace Institute, an independent research institute, says that long-standing barriers to obtaining firearms have broken down in recent years owing to the emergence of the internet, cross-border smuggling of military-grade assault rifles into the EU, the conversion of large numbers of blank-firing guns and the widespread reactivation of weapons previously rendered unusable to be sold to collectors. The report concluded that terrorists generally rely on previously established criminal connections to obtain firearms on illicit markets. It identified prisons as places that offered new opportunities for extremists who did “not yet have the necessary criminal connections to acquire firearms”. The situation in the UK is different, researchers found, but the report said there were growing fears of smuggling of powerful automatic weapons to the UK. Meanwhile, according to a separate report, released on the same day, by analysts at the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey, criminal and terrorist networks on the continent obtain firearms from 2 major sources: weapons smuggled from south-east Europe after the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, and the more recent trade in converted firearms, some of which originate in EU Member States.
One example of near-Europe arms supply sources from the Flemish Peace institute study is detailed in the following –
ILLICIT FIREARMS PROLIFERATION IN THE EU PERIPHERY: THE CASE OF UKRAINE
This says that, as the second-largest country in Europe, with a history of firearms stockpiles and an active conflict zone, Ukraine presents one of the most complex firearms proliferation cases in Europe. While much of the firearms trafficking in Ukraine currently takes place within its borders, fears of criminal cross-border smuggling and of terrorists accessing weapons from Ukraine to commit terrorist attacks in the EU were fanned in 2016 when a French national was arrested for trying to bring 5 Kalashnikov-type assault rifles, 5,000 bullets, 2 anti-tank grenade launchers, detonators, and 125 kg of TNT across the Polish border. This study details the history and distribution of seizures across Ukraine, its historical legacy of surplus weapons, political transfers to non-state actors (again, within Ukraine), craft production and conversion of firearms, and those who are or may be involved. There is a section on trafficking routes, within and without the country. The report concludes that Ukraine’s illicit firearm’s market can be characterised as a relatively accessible environment for individuals with the opportunity and willingness to participate in the market. The illicit proliferation of firearms observed in Ukraine also gives individuals with malign intentions access to these weapons and the possibility of smuggling them into the EU. In addition to firearms, the weapons seized by Ukrainian authorities include everything from firearms to anti-tank weapons, heavy anti-personnel weapons and explosives. The potential availability of these weapons makes the threat of proliferation all the more conspicuous and relevant, especially in light of the increased terrorist threat in the EU.