Leishmaniasis emergence in Europe is reviewed, based on a search of literature up to and including 2009. Topics covered are the disease, its relevance, transmission and epidemiology, diagnostic methods, treatment, prevention, current geographical distribution, potential factors triggering changes in distribution, and risk prediction. Potential factors triggering distribution changes include vectorial competence, importation or dispersal of vectors and reservoir hosts, travel, and climatic/environmental change. The risk of introducing leishmaniasis into the European Union (EU) and its spread among Member States was assessed for the short (2-3 years) and long term (15-20 years). There is only a low risk of introducing exotic Leishmania species because of the absence of proven vectors and/or reservoir hosts. The main threat comes from the spread of the two parasites endemic in the EU, namely Leishmania infantum, which causes zoonotic visceral and cutaneous leishmaniasis in humans and the domestic dog (the reservoir host), and L. tropica, which causes anthroponotic cutaneous leishmaniasis. The natural vector of L. tropica occurs in southern Europe, but periodic disease outbreaks in Greece (and potentially elsewhere) should be easily contained by surveillance and prompt treatment, unless dogs or other synanthropic mammals prove to be reservoir hosts. The northward spread of L. infantum from the Mediterranean region will depend on whether climate and land cover permit the vectors to establish seasonal biting rates that match those of southern Europe. Increasing dog travel poses a significant risk of introducing L. infantum into northern Europe, and the threat posed by non-vectorial dog-to-dog transmission should be investigated.