EU fight against drugs: prevention, third country assistance

Three Commissioners have joined forces to develop a comprehensive policy to fight drugs in the EU. The aim is to reduce both supply and demand.

On the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, three Commissioners have jointly launched a Green paper on the role of civil society in drugs policy in the EU. The Green paper launches a public consultation to involve civil society organisations’, active in drugs field, knowledge and expertise in the EU policy-making process.

The Justice, Freedom and Security Commissioner Franco Frattini, External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner and Health and Consumer protection Commissioner Markos Kyprianou together stressed that the Commission is set to develop “a comprehensive EU policy against drugs, consisting of reducing both demand and supply“.

Commissioner Frattini promised to promote “vigorous enforcement of laws against drugs production and trafficking”, whereas Commissioner Kyprianou stressed his public health role in prevention and reducing demand, and highlighted EU’s past activities in drug related harm reduction. Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner explained how EU assistance to third countries in their fight against drugs has almost doubled in the last 3 years. The aim is to promote alternative development policies  to fight poverty in the countries where drugs are cultivated.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) highlights three key weaknesses in the global drug control situation: heroin supply in Afghanistan, cocaine demand in Europe and cannabis supply/demand everywhere. "Demand for cocaine is rising in western Europe to alarming levels," said Executive Director UNODC, Antonio Maria Costa. "I urge EU governments not to ignore this peril. Too many professional, educated Europeans use cocaine, often denying their addiction, and drug abuse by celebrities is often presented uncritically by the media, leaving young people confused and vulnerable."

According to the Commission, there are 2 million problem drug users in the EU and around 8 000 people die of an overdose every year and the incidence of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C among drug users is causing increasing concern.It is estimated that each month in 1.5 million Europeans take cocaine and 12 million cannabis, of whom 3 million take it on a more or less daily basis. Cannabis thus remains the most widely used illicit drug, followed by ecstasy and other synthetic drugs.

An EU drug strategy (2005-2012) was agreed in December 2004, after which the EU drugs action plan (2005-2008) was decided in June 2005. More background in a Commission memo on the issue.

  • Stakeholders have until 30 September 2006 to submit their comments on the Green paper. 
  • The Commission will, in 2007, address the issue of drugs in prison, publish an implementation report of the 2003 activities on harm reduction and issue a report on exchange of good practices at EU level.
  • An EU conference on civil society and drugs in Europe was organised in January 2006. 

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