Presidential address

Josep M. Tamarit-Sumalla

Josep M. Tamarit-Sumalla

Universitat Oberta de Catalunya


European Criminology goes East

This year, European criminologists will meet in September in Bucharest, where they will also expect to meet participants from countries outside Europe. Bucharest is the eighth largest city in the European Union by population and one of the most populated cities in Eastern Europe. Furthermore, as the Call for Participants emphasises, it stands as the easternmost city among the conferences organised by the ESC. Despite this, the Conference’s motto of ‘going East’ might appear somewhat surprising, possibly suggesting that Criminology has not yet reached that region.

Piacentini and Slate (2023) recently highlighted the relative absence of Eastern Europe (and Eurasia) both as a geographic location and as part of the global imagery among criminologists. They find it particularly curious that the East is eclipsed from prison studies, especially considering that the war against Ukraine
has brought attention to the mobilisation of Russia’s prison population, which they see as an opportunity for reflection for criminologists. Reflections of this kind can pave the way to hope for a new flourishment of Eastern criminology, as was the case with the re-emergence of Southern criminology.

There is no doubt that scholars from Eastern countries have made significant contributions to criminological research and have played a pivotal role in promoting better policies and practices that harmonise crime control with human rights and empirical evidence. Benjamin Mendelsohn stands out for his noteworthy contributions, particularly in pioneering victimology. As a tribute to his work, special attention will be given to him during the Bucharest Conference. It is also worth mentioning the ESC Working Group on Balkan Criminology, the activities of the Serbian Society of Victimology, as well as frequent victimological courses in Dubrovnik, and the commendable efforts of Aleksandras Dobryninas, Gorazd Mesko, Vesna Nikolic-Ristanovic, Miklós Lévay and Krzysztof Krajewski as former Presidents of the ESC, along with uncountable other achievements by colleagues, universities, and institutions.

However, data collected about the activities of the ESC clearly indicate that Eastern countries still need our attention and support if we aim to see them placed at the center of the European criminological community. From the 21 ESC Conferences (excluding the e-conferences in 2020 and 2021), only six were held in eastern cities (Cracow, Ljubljana, Vilnius, Prague, Budapest, and Sarajevo). And a much more striking fact should be highlighted: the revision conducted by Smith (2014) of the articles published in the European Journal of Criminology revealed that only 7.9% (17 out of 215) had one or more authors based in an Eastern country (Greece 5, Hungary 3, Poland, Bulgaria, and Slovenia 2, Lithuania, Russia, and Slovenia 1 each). Almost half of the articles were authored by individuals from the UK and the Netherlands (32.6% and 15.8%, respectively). Recent data presented by Kyle Treiber, Chief Editor of the Journal, to the ESC Board showed minimal advancements in recent years. Throughout the 2018-2022 period, authors from the United

Kingdom and the Netherlands still accounted for 40% of accepted articles, whereas only 6.5% were authored by researchers from Eastern countries, with the Czech Republic standing out as the country with the most published contributions in this geographic area (10).

Data extracted from the presentations held at the ESC annual conferences are also significant. Vander Beken et al (2021) investigated the content of 11.724 abstracts presented between 2001 and 2019 (a total of 17 conferences) and observed that more than 40% of all abstracts were authored by scholars from four Western northern countries (UK, Belgium, Netherlands and Germany). A review of the same data led me to conclude that abstracts submitted by authors from East Europe represented 11,8% of all abstracts presented at the aforementioned conferences. The Eastern countries that stood out the most regarding the number of participants at ESC conferences were Poland (1,8%), Slovenia (1,5%), Hungary (1,3%) and the Czech Republic (1,2%). The reasons that explain this difference are certainly of distinct nature: different academic backgrounds, different opportunities for research or the variety of education offer in European universities. In any case, we cannot forget that participation in conferences is conditioned by the capacity to cope with the economic expenses involved with travelling to conferences that have been held in Western cities.

For all these reasons, the fact that EUROCRIM2024 will be held in Bucharest is a matter of joy and interest.

The Bucharest ESC Conference will tackle issues related to the development of criminology in Europe and beyond. As a plenary speaker, I will present an update on the information currently available regarding the evolution of European criminology in recent years, organised by thematic areas. The above-mentioned review by Vander Beken found that the most prevalent topics among abstracts presented at the ESC conferences were: research methods, critical study of the reaction to and discourse on crime, UK-based research, self-reporting, probation and studies on crime and society. In this revision, four topics increased significantly from 2013 to 2019: desistance, victims and their involvement in the criminal process, cybercrime and environmental harms. The last one, reflecting the expansion of green criminology and, despite the upward trend, still received low interest from researchers compared to the most attended thematic areas. In addition to these topics, it was observed that abstracts increasingly used a specific theoretical, methodological and meta-scientific vocabulary. Conversely, studies on hate crimes, sexual offending and homicide rates declined over time.

A first analysis about the evolution of topics at the last conferences (e-conferences 2020 and 2021, EUROCRIM2022 – Malaga - and EUROCRRIM2023 - Florence) show the emergence of new areas of interest in criminological research. Beyond those papersthat reflect an interest of researchers in transient social problems, such as studies on the effects and implications of pandemics, some emerging issues are likely to stay. This will certainly be the case with artificial intelligence, considering the broad and profound impact it may have on crime research, policing and crime control, particularly within the criminal justice system. Also digitalisation, digital criminology, the social construction of crime, extremisms, wrongful convictions and social media have received increasing attention by scholars from different countries. This entails an expansion of the scope of criminological research, since “old” topics don’t seem to disappear from the panels. Juvenile delinquency, identified by Smith (2014) as the most prevalent topic among the articles in the European Journal of Criminology, still remains a significant area of research. In the same vein, criminological theories, methodology, policing, prisons, drugs, organized crime, victimology and victim’s rights, correlates of crime, gender, time and spaces of crime, restorative justice, domestic violence, community interventions and corporate crime have featured a large number of presentations. However, a smaller presence of contributions relating to critical criminology has been observed. The effective activity of the thirty-six working groups established in the ESC will also serve as a test of how the criminological community is adapting to the changing circumstances of our countries.

Europe is confronting new challenges in 2024, making it necessary to question whether certain topics will receive greater attention from the criminological community. With the elections for the European Parliament taking place amidst the rise of far-right political parties and social tensions related to migration and xenophobia, there is a potential for hate crimes and migration issues to take center stage once again. Topics such as politically oriented crimes, particularly those committed by right-wing extremists, may see increased attention in this context. In addition, researchers may be interested in war crimes as a consequence of the continuation and even intensification of the armed conflicts provoking devastating impacts on Eastern countries and populations which share common geographical regions and cultures. Moreover, increasing concerns on climate change, problems of rural areas and evolving social sensitivities and norms at the international and national level will move criminologists towards the enhancement of Green Criminology, crimes against animals and Rural Criminology.

We should not forget our pending issues. Catrien Bijleveld reminded us, one year ago (2023), that
there is a significant gap in European data. Of course, victimisation surveys in Eastern countries are welcome, but, above all, we still need a pan-European crime victimisation survey that provides us with baseline data to study crime trends across the continent and to identify differences between countries and geographical and political areas. This must be a priority for the European Society of Criminology.

I hope that EUROCRIM2024, in Bucharest, will once again be a milestone in the evolution and consolidation of European Criminology, and that, together, we can respond to the needs of our societies.


(1) Bijleveld, C. (2023). European Criminology needs European data: The case for a pan-European crime and victimization survey. European Journal of Criminology, 20(3): 785-791.

(2) Piacentini, L. & Slate, G. (2023). East is East?: Beyond the Global North and Global South in Criminology. The British Journal of Criminology:

(3) Smith, D.J. (2014). Wider and deeper: The future of criminology in Europe. European Journal or Criminology, 11(1): 3-22.

(4) Van der Beken, T., Vandeviver, C. & Daenekindt, S. (2021). Two decades of European criminology: Exploring the conferences of the European Society of Criminology through topic modelling. European Journal or Criminology, 18(4): 463-483.