(exceptionally mild spoilers for Jurassic World Dominion, a movie I myself have not seen, follow)
In the latest Jurassic World movie, genetically-modified dinosaurs – having escaped the island – are sold at a black market bazaar to depraved billionaires who want to gamble on them, eat them, or use them as weapons. The bazaar is coded as being Middle Eastern – it’s even graded with the “yellow filter” that Hollywood often uses to make non-Western countries seem dirtier and more threatening – but, technically, it’s not. It is, according to the script, in Malta.
Malta is an interesting country – a small Mediterranean island between Libya and Italy, speaking a language that is closely related to Arabic but with a vocabulary borrowing heavily from Italian/Sicilian (Maltese is the only semitic language written in the Latin alphabet) – but what Hollywood cares about here is that it has some of the aesthetic trappings of the Arab world while being European and majority white, meaning that if anyone says “Wasn’t that bazaar scene a bit racist?” they can say “Uh, nuh uh, this just a white European bazaar”.
But this got me thinking: if you wanted to smuggle dinosaurs into Europe (meaning in this case, primarily the EU, plus the UK and Switzerland), how would you do it? What would be the best place to set up your military-grade dino dealing fair? Here is every microstate, dependency and special territory (outlying bits of EU countries where customs and some other bits of EU law don’t apply), ranked by how good a place it would be for a Jurassic black market.
Properties they are scored by include:
- Geography: Is it isolated enough to keep dinosaurs hidden and stop them escaping? Islands a big plus.
- Climate: Is it warm enough for dinosaurs, which are generally shown to prefer tropical environments?
- Politics: Could the government turn a blind eye to a dinosaur market?
- Transport: Does it have the infrastructure to import large dinosaurs discreetly? Large ships would be best for this, then in descending order air, river, road, rail (how do you keep dinosaurs hidden and fed in a shunting yard, eh?)
- Customs and trade: What kind of controls are there on shipments from here to the major European powers? Customs, passports, phytosanitary, etc
- Luxury: Can it keep billionaires accommodated and entertained when they aren’t at the dino bazaar?
Right off the bat, I’m discounting various British, French and Dutch overseas territories in the Caribbean Sea and Pacific, Indian and Antarctic Oceans as these are too far from Europe (or for the most part other major countries). Greenland, the Faroes, Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon and Svalbard are obviously too cold and remote. Frozen conflict zones (Russian-created ones like Transnistria, Donetsk PR, Luhansk PR, etc, as well as Northern Cyprus) are crawling with peacekeepers and weapons inspectors (or, now, are active war zones) – the same also goes for Kosovo and the republics within Bosnia and Herzegovina. The UN Buffer Zone in Cyprus is not really any kind of state territory. Luxembourg is not a microstate, just a small country.
=18. Ceuta and Melilla
Spanish cities on the African continent, bordering Morocco. Not in Europe, and these have some of the tightest border regimes on the planet, with militarised border fences to keep refugees away. Absolute non-starter.
A Russian Baltic Sea exclave between Poland and Lithuania. Within Russia, it’s a wealthy special economic zone, but it has almost no special status with its EU neighbours, so it wouldn’t be any more effective for smuggling dinos into the EU than just bringing them in from mainland Russia – which since the invasion of Ukraine would be nearly impossible.
A German island in the North Sea, now a pair of craggy rocks after it was used by the British to detonate surplus bombs following WWII. In its favour, it has both a port and an airport, and it is in the EU with customs derogations but without significant passport controls. On the downside, pretty much everything else. The only flights and ferries are to Germany, meaning it doesn’t offer a backdoor into the EU (cruises very rarely stop by on the way to the UK and Norway), and the tiny, tiny size means there would be nowhere secluded enough to hide a T-rex. I also don’t know what cold-blooded dinosaurs would make of the North Sea climate.
Very obscure, and barely a special territory at all. It’s a Swiss skiing village on the border of Austria that’s not part of the Swiss VAT zone, so it has duty free arrangements. Apart from that, it’s just a normal Swiss village with a few hundred people. There would be absolutely no value to trying to sell dinosaurs here.
14. Vatican City
It’s only even this high up the list because it makes me laugh. Pros: Rome can keep billionaires entertained. Cons: Everything else. Where would you even hold the market? The Sistine chapel? Even if you were able to bribe enough cardinals, there’s no way you’d get those dinosaurs in and out undetected.
13. San Marino
San Marino is entirely surrounded by Italy and has no way in or out except an Italian road. Useless for smuggling things into the EU.
Basically the same problem as San Marino, although at least it has two borders – France and Spain.
A strange island territory, Swedish speaking but belonging to Finland. It’s part of the EU, but has various derogations (including from tax, so ferries from Sweden to Finland stop at the islands in order to qualify for duty free). In more peaceful times, cruise ships sometimes come through from St Petersburg too, offering a non-EU route in. Still, the Baltic climate probably isn’t dino friendly.
=10. Livigno, Campione d’Italia and Büsingen am Hochrhein
Three little towns – two Italian, one German. Campione and Büsingen are within Swiss territory, while Livigno is contiguous with the rest of Italy. The customs and VAT regimes of these vary, but realistically there’s very little border control and little risk of dinosaurs being caught by guards. In particular, these three all have relatively easy access to the dodgy freeport located underneath Geneva Airport, which would be a good place to keep and move dinosaur eggs and frozen embryos. Campione and Büsingen are mostly resorts with casinos and villas for the rich, and they use the Swiss franc, which might make it a bit easier to pay for your dinosaurs from your Swiss bank account. Livigno used to have a major casino too, but that closed.
9. Akrotiri and Dhekelia
These little British enclaves on Cyprus should have everything going for them – they border both EU Cyprus and the Turkish-controlled unrecognised Northern Cyprus, plus Akrotiri has a major airbase, and they’re on a hot island that’s beloved of tourists. The problem is that they are British military base areas. You couldn’t realistically sell military dinosaurs to NATO’s enemies through these, limiting their usefulness and the market value of dinos sold there. Plus, Dhekelia also borders the United Nations-run buffer zone – even if the British armed forces were in on the smuggling, you’d also need the UN Peacekeepers on side.
This possibly wouldn’t deserve to be any higher than Campione or Büsingen, if it wasn’t for one thing: it’s an absolute monarchy. If the Grand Duke wanted, he could easily legitimise a dinosaur bazaar in Vaduz. The Rhine also flows through, connecting it in a hard-to-trace way to major German and Dutch cities. The climate might be tricky – it gets hot summers, but freezing cold Alpine winters.
7. Isle of Man
With regular ferries to Ireland – North and South – and the UK as well as membership of the Common Travel Area, there’s a lot going for the Isle of Man. It’s very isolated – it’s where the British government used to have prisoner of war camps and more shamefully, internment camps for Jewish refugees – and as a tax haven it’s used to dodgy secretive businesses. The climate might be the only weakness. Dinosaurs won’t like the wet Irish Sea weather, and neither would the billionaires.
British overseas territory on the south coast of Spain. It’s a hot mountainous peninsula with a fence on its land border, so little risk of dinosaurs escaping, plus it’s got a port – with ferries to Morocco – and an airport. Like Akrotiri, it’s dominated by a military base, but being a densely populated city it might be easier to hide from British authorities here. The only problem is that due to tensions between the UK and Spain – especially since Brexit – it’s quite difficult to cross the border into the EU. Gibraltar is set to join the Schengen area, which might reduce border controls a bit and make dinosaur smuggling easier.
=5. Jersey and Guernsey
The Channel Islands, although not Mediterranean, have pleasant enough climates and they are popular with the wealthy. Until recently, the island of Sark was even a feudal state that could effectively be bought by the highest bidder. Good connections to both the UK and France, although no real way to get dinosaurs in from outside Europe. Basically, Isle of Man with more sun.
Playground of the wealthy, with several ports, a balmy Riviera climate and basically no border controls with France. Although its northern edge is a sheer cliff and the surrounding terrain is mountainous, there’s probably still a big risk of dinosaurs running off to France. The country is very densely built up, so on the one hand, there’s nowhere to hide – but maybe on the other hand there’s bound to be a casino or mansion with a basement you can use. If you could stay hidden, this would be a superb venue for buying and selling genetically modified killer dinosaurs.
=3. Azores, Madeira, Canary Islands
Grouping these together – these are islands in the North Atlantic belonging to Portugal and Spain respectively. Like the French and Dutch overseas territories, these are classed as “Outermost regions” of the EU – Madeira and the Canary Islands are actually closer to Africa than Europe – but they are close enough to have ferries to the mainland so I’m giving them a pass. They have major airports and shipping ports, a very pleasant climate, and holiday infrastructure aimed at the wealthy. Any of these would probably be a great place for a dino bazaar.
2. Mount Athos
Here’s a fun one in the same vein as the Vatican City but much higher up the list. A tiny Greek peninsula that is a semi-independent Orthodox monastic estate. Unlike the Vatican, it has many small harbours, and it’s relatively close to Turkey for smuggling. Part of the EU, but by treaty it can impose its own rules on the movement of goods and people – a power which it uses to ban women, but which it could us to, I don’t know, move battle-trained Indominus rex? If the authorities come round, just claim religious sanctuary. The rich can entertain themselves either in Greek luxury hotels or offshore on their yachts. Only thing is you’d have to bribe the monks – and you couldn’t sell those dinosaurs to women.
Malta is a full EU member, but a poorly behaved one. Its government is widely criticised for selling passports to millionaires and turning a blind eye to corruption – even the murder of journalists. It’s a small island, so no risk of dinosaurs escaping, but not so small that there’s nowhere quiet and secluded. It has a warm but stable climate. It has ports and international airports, and smuggling from Libya is common. It’s historically been neutral and non-aligned and is not a member of NATO or the EU PESCO military structure. It has numerous luxury hotels and mooring for yachts. It’s hard to argue that Malta is the European microstate best suited to a military dinosaur black market. But…
?. Northern Ireland
Sadly, Jurassic World has never specified how Brexit went in that universe, but if it’s like ours, Northern Ireland will be something of a customs no-mans-land, with an open Irish border and a sea border that is poorly policed. It also has large organised networks of former terrorists (both loyalist and republican) who have plenty of experience smuggling and trading weapons – and more recently, drugs. Surely they could turn their skills to dinosaurs easily enough. Perhaps in this universe, both sides are demanding hard borders to keep the dinos on the other side.