Nieuwe plannen voor geharmoniseerd Europees drugsbeleid (en)

Met dank overgenomen van EUobserver (EUOBSERVER), gepubliceerd op donderdag 17 februari 2005, 17:42.
Auteur: | By Lucia Kubosova

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - The new European Commission's plan on illegal drugs suggests setting up minimum EU standards on drug treatment and calls for more effective alternatives to prison for drug related crimes.

However, Brussels, which unveiled its new Drug Action Plan for 2005-2008 on Thursday (17 February) wants to avoid an "ideological debate" on drugs with member states.

Drug abuse is currently at historic levels across Europe, with up to two million problem drug users - especially among young people - in the EU.

The European Commission argues that there is a need for "solid and intelligent co-operation at the European level", pointing to a 2002 survey which suggested that 71% of Europeans wanted to see decisions on drugs taken by the EU.

However, drugs policies remain in the hands of national governments and there are numerous legal differences in drugs-related practices in the member states.

Some countries, such as the Netherlands, have introduced a more liberal approach towards criminalisation of drug use over the years while medical treatment of drug addicts also differ across the continent.

"We do not want to get involved in an ideological debate with the member states...But that debate is coming closer", said a Commission official.

The most recent statistics show changing patterns in use of drugs across Europe.

While the use of heroine has gradually declined over the past years, the EU has become the world leader in the use of synthetic drugs, mainly ecstasy.

The number of people demanding treatment for cocaine addiction, as well as teenagers using cannabis is also rising significantly.

Differences in drug criminalisation

In most EU member states, the majority of reported drug law offences are related to drug use or possession for use, according to the 2004 Report by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).

However, in Italy and Spain those are not criminal offences, so all drug offences relate to dealing or trafficking.

Disparities across the member states also remain in punishment for different drugs-related offences.

The report suggested that some countries have changed their policies on the basis of impact research showing that stricter measures towards non-violent drug users did not lead to a reduction in drug use.

Different rules for treatment

The Commission says its plan to create minimal required conditions for drug treatment across the EU is to ensure that the fundamental rights of citizens are protected.

The EMCDDA report argues that drug-related treatment in general has moved away from hospitals into treatment centres in community settings. However, this trend has been less evident in the new member states, where psychiatric hospitals remain the primary treatment providers.

The same applies for "substitution treatment" which is used commonly for opiate users in the EU, apart from in the ten newcoming countries, where drug-free treatment options dominate.

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