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Brussels, 26 June 2006

World No Drugs Day 2006: Commission stresses Europe’s commitment to fight drugs trafficking and help addicts

On the occasion of the UN’s International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, Franco Frattini, Vice President of the European Commission responsible for Justice, Freedom and Security, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Commissioner for External Relations and Markos Kyprianou, Commissioner for Health and Consumer protection stressed the European Commission’s commitment to international efforts to fight against drugs, support third countries through common projects and address the health dimension of drugs addiction. In the EU, over 8000 people, mainly young men in their 20s and 30s, die of a drugs overdose each year. Estimates for the total number of drugs-related deaths are thought to be as much as three times higher due to under-reporting of deaths and deaths indirectly linked to drug use due to AIDS, violence, accidents and suicide.

The EU response to these worrying trends is to develop sensible and effective European responses to reduce both demand and supply, using all means at its disposal.

"The cornerstone of the EU’s drugs strategy is a balanced approach between prevention, education and treatment on the one hand, and the vigorous enforcement of laws against drugs production and trafficking on the other," said Vice President Frattini. "This balance between public health and law enforcement reflects the balance between peoples’ rights and public safety. Within our policy, close cooperation with partners of civil society is a key to success. My objective for the coming months is to bring civil society organisations more closely into the policy process at EU level."

"Reducing drugs supply and demand are two sides of the same coin, and prevention and harm reduction are essential. EU public health policy contributes to achieving these objectives by supporting the exchange of good practice and networking between Member States. Drugs prevention is an integral part of the response developed by the EU and demand reduction is an important part of the 2003-2008 EU Public Health programme," stressed Commissioner Kyprianou, indicating that the Commission will continue to support such projects through the new Public Health Action Programme 2007-2013.

"International cooperation and shared responsibility are key principles of our policy", said Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner. “As major donors, we help countries outside the EU where drugs are cultivated to offer new routes out of poverty and strengthen their ability to provide alternatives to drug crops. We also help other third countries to improve their efforts to reduce drug use and limit the health and social harm from drug use”

EU assistance to third countries in the fight against drugs has almost doubled in the 3 last years. Projects implemented by the Member States and the European Commission in third countries amounted to over 500 millions in 2005, focussing on Afghanistan and Latin America, where support is given to alternative development projects to reduce coca production in the Andean region.

In the two first years of the present EU Public Health Programme, over 4.1 million euro were spent directly on drugs related projects. Priority is given to projects dealing with harm reduction, joint prevention programmes and best practices in drug treatment and social reintegration.

Between 3 and 3.5 million people have tried cocaine last year and 1.5 million are classified as regular users. 12 million people take cannabis, of whom 3 million take it on a more or less daily basis. Ecstasy, produced in Europe, is now the second most common drug after cannabis. According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA)[1], in some Member States up to 8 % of young people take it on a regular basis. Systematic and intensive mixing of drugs, often with alcohol and medicines is a growing problem and difficult to treat.

[1] The EMCDDA is a European Regulatory Agency with a budget of over 12 Million euros for 2006, financed almost exclusively by the Community. It plays a crucial role in providing the evidence base for the EU drugs policies.

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