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Action Plan to Combat Drugs (2000-2004)

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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.

ACT

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].

SUMMARY

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:

  • Information:
    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.
  • Coordination
    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.

RELATED ACTS

EVALUATION

Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 22 October 2004 on the results of the final evaluation of the EU Drugs Strategy and Action Plan on Drugs (2000-2004) - Not published in the Official Journal].
The 2000-2004 Action Plan provides for the Commission to undertake mid-term and final evaluations of its implementation. This communication presents the results of the final evaluation and lays the foundation for the future evolution of EU drugs policy on the basis of the lessons learnt from the implementation of current policy.

The communication gives details of the main achievements and identifies areas where further progress is needed.

CONCLUSIONS

The communication concludes inter alia that:

  • around 95% of the actions set out in the Plan have been implemented or are in the process of being implemented;
  • almost all the Member States have adopted a national drugs strategy or action plan;
  • taking the evaluation tools used, there is nothing to support the contention that the goal to significantly reduce drug abuse has been achieved or that fewer young people are using drugs; however, there is evidence of an overall levelling-off in the upward trend in drug addiction;
  • similarly, the available information does not suggest that the availability of drugs has been reduced substantially; none the less, a number of EU-level initiatives have strengthened law enforcement measures against drug trafficking and supply;
  • a number of important initiatives have also been taken to combat money laundering; in particular, Member States are participating in a number of initiatives to combat the diversion of precursors, such as the European Joint Unit on Precursors (EJUP).

PROPOSALS

The communication sets out the following proposals for the future EU drugs strategy:

  • it should contain clear and precise objectives and priorities that can be translated into operational indicators and measures in the future Action Plan, with responsibility and deadlines for their implementation being clearly defined;
  • continued progress should be made on the availability, quality and comparability of information on monitoring the drugs situation;
  • the objectives of the new strategy and action plans should be reflected in the multi-annual programme consolidating the area of freedom, security and justice;
  • the primary focus of the work of the Council's Horizontal Drugs Group should be on moving forward and monitoring the implementation of the measures set out in the future EU action plans on drugs; it should also have a leading role in coordinating the work of the other Council groups on drug issues;
  • the results of the many activities undertaken in the field of drugs should be more widely shared to promote similar activities elsewhere;
  • this final evaluation should be taken into account in the development of the new EU drugs strategy 2005-2012.

The Commission will present a proposal at the beginning of 2005 for an Action Plan on Drugs 2005-2008. In addition, it will draw up an annual progress review on the implementation of this Plan and will organise an impact assessment in 2008 with a view to proposing a second Action Plan for the period 2009-2012. In 2012 the Commission will organise an overall evaluation of the EU Drugs Strategy and Action Plans.

Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 4 November 2002 on the mid-term evaluation of the EU Action Plan on Drugs (2000-2004) [COM(2002)599 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
The evaluation covers the five main areas of the Plan: coordination, information and evaluation, demand reduction, prevention of drug use and of drug-related crime, supply reduction and international cooperation. It is based on four main sources of information:

  • the replies of the Member States to a questionnaire on progress at national level;
  • the updated follow-up table of the achievements of the Commission, the EMCDDA and Europol;
  • the evaluation of law enforcement in the Member States and its role in the fight against drugs trafficking;
  • the initiatives taken at EU level, either by the Commission or by Member States, which have been adopted or which are under examination.

RESULTS OF THE MID-TERM EVALUATION

Following a detailed assessment of each of the five main areas of the plan, the Commission concluded that, despite considerable progress, much work remained to be done, particularly in the following areas:

  • the issue of synthetic drugs;
  • the further development of the evaluation of drug policies and drugs activities at national and EU levels on the basis of reliable data (importance of research);
  • close cooperation with the candidate countries;
  • more effective coordination of action in third countries (with a particular focus on the main producing and transit countries).

In order to take forward implementation of the EU Action Plan on Drugs, the Commission makes the following proposals:

  • priorities among the activities set out in the Action Plan should be identified in order to focus on these key activities (e.g. by setting deadlines for implementation);
  • a steering group, to include representatives from the Commission, the Council Presidency, Europol and the EMCDDA, should be established in 2003 by the Presidency and the Commission; Parliament should also appoint its representative; the group's aim would be to provide guidance and to monitor the preparation of the final assessment;
  • initiatives in the field of drugs should be primarily focused on achieving the objectives set out in the Action Plan;
  • the EMCDDA and Europol should compare 2003 data in the field of drugs with data for 1999 with a view to the final evaluation of the Action Plan;
  • a conference could be organised in 2004 to involve civil society in the future development of EU drugs policy.

The Commission will prepare a communication on the final evaluation of the Action Plan by the end of 2004.

COORDINATION ON DRUGS

Communication of 12 November 2003 from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on coordination on drugs in the European Union [COM (2003) 681 final - Official Journal C 96, 21.4.2004].
The Commission, wishing to boost coordination on drugs at European Union level, explains what is needed and what is at stake, pointing to the main existing models of coordination and emphasising the key elements of effective interaction. It recommends, in particular, incorporating all aspects of drug-related policy (social and health aspects, law enforcement measures, youth policy), close cooperation between law-enforcement bodies and coordination between them and social and heath services, and systematic evaluation of strategies and activities in this field.

IMPLEMENTATION

Communication of 8 June 2001 from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on the implementation of the EU Action Plan on Drugs (2000-2004) [COM(2001) 301 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
The main purpose of the communication is to suggest measures to facilitate the evaluation of the Action Plan on Drugs, to outline the method which the Commission intends to use for the evaluation, and to present a number of measures already undertaken as part of the Plan. The communication draws on contributions from the EMCDDA and Europol.

For the purpose of assessing the extent to which the activities proposed in the Action Plan have actually been carried out, the Commission proposes a new instrument - a follow-up table - to ensure proper evaluation.

The evaluation of the impact on drugs and drug addiction will partly depend on information supplied by EMCDDA and Europol. These two organisations have already set up two working groups on impact assessment criteria. However, the Commission notes that, because of the lack of reliable and comparable data on the epidemiological and criminal aspects, the mid-term evaluation of the Action Plan (in 2002) will be limited to the extent to which the Action Plan activities have been carried out.

As regards future enlargement, stepping up the fight against drugs in the applicant countries remains a priority for the Commission. It has launched numerous initiatives in recent years, including opening negotiations on the participation of applicant countries in the EMCDDA's REITOX network. The Commission also plans to set up a database which would bring together all of information about projects financed by the Member States or the Commission in the applicant countries, in order to avoid duplication.

The European Union will continue its important activities on the external front. Priority will be given to the main routes used for supplying drugs to the European Union (particularly the cocaine route and the heroin route).

Coordination between all those involved is an essential requirement in the fight against drugs. In line with the provisions of the action plan, the Commission has carried out a study of coordination mechanisms in this field. Its report will be presented shortly. There is a need for better coordination between the Member States and the Commission. The Commission will therefore present proposals at the level of the Council's Horizontal Drugs Group, with a view to the adoption of practical measures.

Last updated: 14.04.2005
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