Action Plan to Combat Drugs (2000-2004)
To intensify cooperation and collaboration at national and European level, a European action plan to combat drug abuse and drug trafficking has been introduced. Through the plan, the Commission is establishing the general guidelines for Union action to combat drugs and drug abuse.
Communication of 26 May 1999 from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on a European Union Action Plan to Combat Drugs (2000-2004) [COM(1999) 239 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
Since the mid-1980s, the Member States have stepped up cooperation on combating drug addiction and drug trafficking. Since 1990, European Councils have adopted a variety of action plans and programmes to provide a comprehensive response to this phenomenon. The European Councils in Cardiff (June 1998) and Vienna (December 1998) called on the Council, the Commission and Parliament to draw up a new, comprehensive anti-drug strategy to replace the 1995-1999 Action Plan. The Commission communication is a follow-up to this request and sets out recent trends in drug abuse and trafficking in the EU and the course the Union's anti-drugs measures should take over the next five years.
The setting up of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and the Europol Drugs Unit (replaced since 1 July 1999 by the European Police Office (Europol)) has led to a better understanding of the drug phenomenon and simplified Member States' cooperation on the collection and exchange of information.
The information provided by these two bodies in 1998 has made it possible to identify a number of trends in consumption and trafficking. The use of cannabis, still the most widely used drug in the EU, has levelled out, while the use of amphetamines and misuse of medicines is on the increase. As regards trafficking, the routes used by the various drugs are well known, the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans often serving as the hub for heroin, cocaine and cannabis. The EU is also a major producer of synthetic drugs.
The Action Plan proposed by the Commission requires a global, multidisciplinary and integrated strategy to fight drugs if it is to be effective. The social and health implications of the drugs problem need to be addressed, as do the links between drug-taking and crime and delinquency. A balanced approach to reducing demand and supply is therefore needed. Furthermore, if the production of drugs is to be reduced, there must be a partnership between producer and consumer countries to provide support for social and economic development in the producer countries.
The Commission would like to see a more systematic assessment, by independent experts, of the measures, policies and strategies adopted by the EU in the fight against drugs. It will carry out a mid-term evaluation of the forthcoming action plan. The data supplied by the EMCDDA and Europol on drug use and trafficking will also make it possible to monitor the situation and if necessary adjust Union policy.
The plan for 2000-2004 identifies a number of priorities:
- measures to counter the use and production of cannabis, amphetamines and ecstasy;
- the introduction of integrated projects to combat urban delinquency, especially among young people;
- measures in the field of health (hepatitis), social exclusion and criminal justice;
- preparations for enlargement with participation by applicant countries in EMCDDA and EU drug addiction projects and measures under the Phare Programme.
The Amsterdam Treaty provides a new legal framework for achieving these ambitious objectives. Under the new Article 152 of the EC Treaty, public health must be taken into account in all Community policies and actions. The drugs problem is also listed as a priority for Community action in the field of public health and cooperation in the fields of justice and home affairs (Title VI of the Treaty on European Union), which mentions three possible methods:
- direct cooperation between police forces and customs authorities of the Member States or cooperation through Europol;
- judicial cooperation;
- approximation, where necessary, of rules on criminal matters in the Member States.
Although drugs continue to be an important theme in international cooperation, no new instruments are planned. Multilateral and bilateral activities already under way will continue.
The Action Plan has five general objectives:
- to ensure that the fight against drugs continues to be a major priority for EU internal and external action;
- to continue the integrated and balanced approach to reducing supply and demand;
- to continue the processing of information with the support of the EMCDDA and Europol;
- to promote international cooperation, particularly through the United Nations;
- to mobilise the necessary resources.
Five specific objectives are also identified:
A comprehensive strategy has to be based on reliable information in order to assess the scale and nature of drug use on a regular basis (the EMCDDA's REITOX network, cooperation between the EMCDDA and Eurostat) as well as on knowledge obtained from research and assessments of earlier programmes.
Action on demand reduction:
The aim is to reduce drug use by the under-18s and the number of drug-related deaths over a period of five years. This will require measures in the field of public health and education (information campaigns in schools). Research is also needed under the Fifth framework programme to improve understanding of consumption factors and associated health and social consequences and to develop more effective treatment. A number of other areas should be studied as a matter of priority, including the effects of drug use on driving and doping in sport.
Action on reduction of illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances:
On the question of the diversion of precursors and psychotropic substances, monitoring must be carried out on targeted products if it is to be effective. Twenty-two such substances are listed in the 1988 United Nations Convention. Those which are not must be the subject of "special surveillance" in cooperation with industry.
On money laundering, the Commission wishes to extend the scope of the 1991 Directive on this subject. A range of international measures are also being carried out as part of the PHARE and TACIS programmes.
Use of the new technologies, and particularly the Internet, must be made safer (an action plan was adopted on this subject in January 1999). Although only the national authorities have the power to initiate legal proceedings or impose penalties, they may call on the assistance of Europol if necessary.
Special attention will be given to synthetic drugs through legislation and practical cooperation both within Europe and at international level.
Finally, a large number of medium and short-term measures are proposed in the action plan to establish an area of freedom, security and justice.
Action at international level
This will be based on national and/or regional plans and is guided by a number of principles, including shared responsibility, integrating drugs control into mainstream development and respect for human rights. The regions mainly concerned are the applicant countries, Latin America, the Caribbean and Central Asia (extending to Transcaucasia), the Mediterranean countries (especially Morocco), Africa and Asia (including China). Cooperation with the industrialised countries and in international bodies (such as the G8, for example) will be strengthened with a view to promoting dialogue and introducing integrated and/or regional policies and programmes. Cooperation with international organisations such as the United Nations Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) must be stepped up.
The drugs phenomenon affects different areas and is covered by a variety of legal bases. The Commission considers that coordination is essential and must involve all the EU institutions and bodies, especially on the question of drug addiction.
The annex includes an assessment of the 1995-1999 action plan, a table of current trends in drug demand reduction, current development in legislation and practices and a list of budget headings on which actions in the field of drugs can be based.