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MEMO/08/571

Brussels, 18 September 2008

EU action plan on drugs 2009-2012

Today the Commission adopted a Communication on "An EU Drugs Action Plan for 2009-2012". The Commission proposes wide-ranging measures to strengthen European cooperation to curb the adverse consequences of drug use and reduce the crime related to it. The Action Plan is grouped around five priorities covering actions to reduce the demand for drugs, to reduce the supply of drugs, to improve international cooperation and to improve understanding of the drugs phenomenon. Vice-President Barrot, responsible for Justice, Freedom and Security also calls on government bodies, public services and voluntary organisations to work in partnership to prevent and reduce the harm caused by drugs in our society and proposes to draw up a European Alliance on Drugs in consultation with all interested parties.

Political Framework: EU Drugs Strategy 2005-2012

The EU Member States are the main actors in the drugs field, and drug legislation is primarily a matter of national competence. However, the Treaties explicitly acknowledge the need to deal with drug issues at EU level, in particular in the fields of justice and home affairs[1] and public health[2].

The proposed Action Plan is the second of two consecutive Action Plans aimed to implement the EU Drugs Strategy 2005-2012, which was endorsed by the Council in 2004. The Strategy was an integral part of the multi-annual programme ‘The Hague Programme for strengthening freedom, security and justice in the EU’[3]. It is based first and foremost on the fundamental principles of EU law and upholds the founding values of the Union: respect for human dignity, liberty, democracy, equality, solidarity, the rule of law and human rights. It aims to protect and improve the well-being of society and of the individual, to protect public health, to ensure for the general public a high level of security and to take a balanced, integrated approach to the drugs problem.

The Strategy sets the framework, objectives and priorities for all drug-related activities in the EU. The first of these Action Plans, the EU Action Plan on Drugs (2005-2008), was endorsed by the Council on 8 July 2005[4]. The evaluation report of this first EU Drugs Action Plan can be found in annex to the Communication.

The Communication: EU Action Plan on Drugs 2009-2012

The EU Drugs Action Plan 2009-2012 has two main pillars, drug demand and drug supply reduction, and three cross cutting themes, including coordination, international cooperation and information, research and evaluation. For each of these five policy fields, priorities have been formulated:

  • Reducing the demand for drugs and raising public awareness

This includes measures to improve the effectiveness of prevention, treatment and harm reduction. Particular attention should be paid to vulnerable people and the prevention of poly-drug use (combined use of illicit and licit substances, in particular alcohol).

  • Mobilising European citizens to play an active part

The Commission proposes to launch a process of consultation with the Member States and European civil society to work towards the acceptance of a European Citizens' Alliance on Drugs. Such a charter would contain a commitment and a set of principles to guide citizens to deal with drug-related issues as they may arise in their immediate environment. This European Citizens' Alliance on Drugs would aim at raising awareness on the risks of drug taking and support best practices in this field.

  • Reducing the supply of drugs

Initiatives to strengthen the effectiveness of law enforcement in the EU to counter drug production and trafficking such as: making full use of the capacities of Europol and other EU structures, based on an intelligence-led approach. More coordinated operations via regional security platforms should be supported.

  • Improving international cooperation

The effectiveness of EU, the world's major donor in the global fight against drugs and in the struggle for more sustainable solutions to drug cultivation, would benefit greatly from better coordination of national and Community policies.

  • Improving understanding of the drug phenomenon

We need to increase our knowledge of all aspects of drug use through more and better coordinated research and data; including data on drug-related crime and on the way the illicit drug market works.

Final Evaluation of the EU Action Plan on Drugs 2005-2008

The Commission Communication is accompanied by an evaluation of the EU Action Plan on Drugs 2005-2008[5] carried out by the Commission with the support of the Member States, the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), Europol, and European NGO networks represented in the Civil Society Forum.

The evaluation showed that objectives of the Action Plan have been translated in national policy, and/ or were already reflected in existing policy documents. Member States’ drug policies are converging and there is a shift towards underpinning national policies with action plans. The evaluation suggests that the Action Plan has initiated a broad range of activities and cooperation. On practically all the specific objectives and actions progress has been made, though with varying degrees of success.

The evaluation shows that the objectives of the current Action Plan haves been partly achieved:

  • Drug Use in the EU: The EMCDDA data[6] suggest that the use of heroin, cannabis and synthetic drugs has stabilised or is declining, but that cocaine use is rising in a number of Member States. The total number of people in the EU who use drugs — or have at some time taken them (‘lifetime prevalence’) — is estimated at 70 million for cannabis, at least 12 million for cocaine, 9.5 million for ecstasy, and 11 million for amphetamines, while at least half a million people are known to be receiving substitution treatment for drugs like heroin. [7] There are up to two million problem drug users in the EU and around 7 500 people die of drugs overdose each year.
  • Global Context: Data available for comparable countries in other parts of the world show that the consumption of cannabis, cocaine, and amphetamines in the EU is significantly lower than, for instance, in the US. The same is true for the number of reported HIV infections related to injecting drug use.
  • Convergence of National Drug Policies: The evaluation also shows that Member States’ drug policies are converging and that there is a shift towards underpinning national policies with action plans. In more than half of the Member States, the drug policy plans reflect the structure and set up of the EU Drugs Strategy 2005-2012 and the EU Action Plan 2005-2008.
  • Some Positive Trends: There is evidence of some downward trends in the number of deaths caused by drugs and the spread of infectious diseases (HIV) through drug injection and the reduction of nuisance caused by drug crimes.
  • International Cooperation: There is now better coordination of EU positions in international fora on drugs, as in the UN’s Committee on Narcotic Drugs (CND) for instance. Moreover, the EU’s integrated and balanced approach to drugs is increasingly serving as a model for other countries worldwide.
  • Problems of Policy Coordination Persist: Even if the quality of information on the EU situation regarding drug use, prevention and treatment has consistently improved, considerable knowledge gaps remain: there is a persistent lack of reliable data on drug supply but also on the scope and outcomes of drug-related assistance to third countries.


Follow-Up of the Communication

Following discussion with the Member States, the European Council will be invited to endorse the EU Drugs Action Plan 2009-2012 by December 2008.


The Drugs Situation in Europe in Figures
Note: the data presented underneath provides a general overview of available statistics. It must be noted that the composition of data varies per type and that there might be important caveats. Not all Member States report statistics on each of the data categories presented.

Table 1 - Drug use among European adults aged 15-64
Substance type
Lifetime use
Last year use
Use in past 30 days
Cannabis
70 million (±22%)
23 million (±7%)
13.4 million (±4%)
Cocaine
12 million (±4%)
4.5 million (±1.4%)
2 million (±0.6%)
Ecstasy
9.5 million (±3%)
3 million (±0.9%)
> 1 million (±0.3%)
Amphetamines
11 million (±3.5%)
2 million (±0.6%)
> 1 million (±0.3%)
(source: EMCDDA Annual Report 2007)

Table 2 - Adverse consequences of drug use
Recent estimated number of drug-related deaths per year
7.500
Estimated number of injecting drug users in the EU and Norway
1.100.000
Estimated number of current or past drug injectors infected with the HIV virus
200.000
Estimated number of current or past drug injectors infected with the Hepatitis C Virus
1.000.000
(source: EMCDDA Annual Report 2007)

Table 3 - Drug treatment data (latest available estimates)

Recent estimated number of dependent drug users in substitution treatment
±585.000
New treatment demand for heroin problems[8]
±157.000
New treatment demand for cannabis problems
±130.000
New treatment demand for cocaine problems
±48.000
(source: EMCDDA Annual Report 2007)

Table 4 - Reports of drug-related offences in 2006
Number of drug use related arrests in EU
613.130
Of which for: Cannabis use
440.338
Heroin use
42.222
Cocaine use
66.036
Number of supply-related arrests (dealing/ trafficking)
134.251
(source: EMCDDA)

Table 5 - Estimated number of drug seizures and quantities seized in the EU
Year
2004

2005

2006

Type of substance
Number
Seizures
Quantity
kg
Number
Seizures
Quantity
kg
Number
Seizures
Quantity
kg
Cannabis resin
270.000
1.080.000
292.000
890.000
314.000
709.000
Herbal cannabis
136.000
55.000
159.000
54.000
167.000
64.000
Cocaine
55.000
72.000
66.000
106.000
72.000
121.000
Heroin
42.000
10.000
48.000
8.000
46.000
9.000
Amphetamines
36.000
7.000
34.000
7.000
33.000
6.000
Ecstasy (tablets x 1000)
21.000
19.000
20.000
13.000
19.000
12.000
(source: EMCDDA)

Table 6 - Number of dismantled illicit synthetic drug facilities
2005[9]
90
2006[10]
75
2007
91
(source: Europol)

Table 7 – Typical retail prices of drugs (range of most frequent (modal) prices in reporting MS)
Substance
Typical retail price in EUR
Unit
Herbal cannabis/ cannabis resin
4-10
Gram
Cocaine
50-75
Gram
Ecstasy
3-9
Tablet
Amphetamines
10-15
Gram
Brown heroin
30-45
Gram
(source: EMCDDA)


[1] Title VI, Articles 29 and 31(1)(e), TEU.

[2] Article 152 TEC: ‘The Community shall complement the Member States’ action in reducing drugs-related health damage, including information and prevention.’

[3] COM(2005) 184 final, 10.5.2005.

[4] OJ C 168, 8.7.2005.

[5] Commission Staff Working Paper attached in Annex 1.

[6] EMCDDA Annual Report 2007

[7] EMCDDA Annual Report 2007.

[8] Note: figures for new treatment demand concern new clients getting into treatment in the given year of reporting. The number does not reflect the total number of clients in treatment.
[9] Data not available for Bulgaria & Romania
[10] Data not available for Bulgaria & Romania


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