EU Drugs Policy: Progress Across The Board
Update on EU Drugs Policy: progress across the board
The Commission has issued its annual Communication reviewing the implementation of the EU Action Plan on Drugs (2005-2008). The Communication concludes that the EU's balanced approach in tackling the drug problem is becoming increasingly effective.
In 2006 EU law enforcement agencies continued to be very active in detecting and preventing the trafficking of both drugs and drug precursors, resulting in an increasing number of seizures and stopped shipments. There is close cooperation between Member States and Europol in targeting drug-related crime.
Member States, with the support of Europol and the Commission, work together in initiatives such as the Maritime Analysis and Operational Centre - Narcotics (MAOC-N), which combines crime intelligence information from seven Member States in successful operations against cocaine trafficking across the Atlantic.
Thanks to sustained investment in independent monitoring and assessment of the drug problem by bodies such as the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), the EU gains a more accurate picture of the true nature of the drug problem.
Vice-President of the Commission, Franco Frattini, and Commissioner responsible for Freedom, Justice and Security, which includes responsibility for the fight against the production and use of illegal drugs in Europe, was encouraged by the Communication. However, he commented: "We must all be very careful not to be complacent and to keep vigilant.
There are areas of concern and we must stay one-step ahead to fight the danger illegal drugs poses to the very fabric of our society. At the same time, we are tackling head-on all elements of the very damaging aspects of the illegal trade in drugs. Importantly, the Communication today shows we are making important wins. "
At international level, with a total value of some 760 Million Euro, the EU is now the biggest player in the global effort against drugs, cooperating with governments and organisations all over the world, including production and transit countries.
Major assistance is provided to Afghanistan (452 Million Euro), and to the Andean region (220 Million Euro), to reduce the production of cocaine. The balanced approach is at the heart of these efforts, incorporating EU principles of respect for human rights and the rule of law. At the level of the UN, the EU is the largest funder of UNODC.
Despite such efforts, recent information shows that cocaine use is on the rise. This trend is worrying and seems to follow global patterns. At the same time, the use of other substances such as cannabis and amphetamine type stimulants shows stabilisation or decline, but warns against the risk of complacency and reduced attention. The bulk of synthetic drugs on the European market are produced within the EU and these substances pose a continuous threat to public health, especially that of young people.
Major achievements have been made in recent years in reducing health risks to individuals and society. Harm reduction is now accepted as an important element of drug and public health policies in all EU Member States and has resulted in fewer drug-related deaths and in curbing the spread of drug-related infectious diseases such as HIV/ AIDS and Hepatitis.
However, the increasing trend in cocaine use poses a serious challenge to drug treatment services all over the EU. In 2008, the Commission will make recommendations for reducing health-related harm associated with drug use and dependence inside prisons.
In spite of the progress that is being made, the EU Institutions and the Member States therefore need to continue to invest in effective approaches, the exchange of high-quality data and in closer cooperation.
In 2008, the Commission will publish the final evaluation of the EU Action Plan on Drugs 2005-2008 and propose the EU Action Plan on Drugs 2009-2012. Based on lessons learnt and taking into account the changing situation in the drug market, this new Action Plan will be designed to target the drug problem at European level and a global scale.