Frattini evalueert Europees beleid tegen drugs (en)

donderdag 26 januari 2006

Vice President Franco Frattini
European Commissioner responsible for Justice, Freedom and Security

"Drugs and civil society in Europe"

Conference on Civil Society and Drugs, Speaking Points
Brussels, 26 January 2006

Let's work together. The issue of drugs is one of the most important concerns affecting millions of Europeans. There is a large number of participants here today. I take that as an indication of the interest of civil society to work together with the EU institutions on this issue.

A worldwide problem

  One of the largest economic activities in the world. The illegal drugs industry is believed to be one of the largest economic activities in the world, on a level with the oil or arms trade in terms of earnings. An industry in which profit margins are so high that the value of human lives has lost all meaning.

  Producer and consumer countries. It poses a threat to the entire international community. Not a single country in the world is safe from it. This means that the EU not only needs to deal with the problem at home, but that its policies and funding in the rest of the world must pay close attention to the drugs situation in any given country or region. The responsibility for the drugs problem is one we share with the traditional producer and transit countries around the world, but we are also aware that the distinction between producer and consumer countries is becoming increasingly blurred: it doesn't help to blame groups of countries far away, for the drugs problems on the streets of Europe.

  Stepping up international cooperation. Recognising this, the European Union is stepping up its international co-operation efforts on drugs and its fight against organised crime, both in Europe and elsewhere.

  Considerable resources. Member States individually and the Commission have devoted considerable resources to drug-related projects in developing and transition countries and regions.

  Majors donors. Overall, the EU's assistance has almost doubled in the last 3 years. The Commission has become one of the world's major donors, providing over € 300 million in assistance to drug-related projects.

  Latin America and Central Asia are priority targets for this assistance.

  Afghanistan. Much of the EU's assistance is focused on projects in Afghanistan, responsible for 90% of global heroin production, to support Afghan counter-narcotic efforts, to rebuild society there, and to promote alternative rural development projects. A further 35 % of EU assistance goes to alternative development projects to reduce coca production in the Andean Region and to support law enforcement there.

  Reducing demand, helping citizens. However, if we want our fight against drug trafficking to be effective, we must be equally active on the issue of reducing demand for illicit drugs in our own societies and helping those citizens whose dependency on drugs is harming them and those around them.

Drugs situation in EU

  In the European Union there are up to two million problem drug users. Drug consumption, particularly among young people, is at historically high levels. A growing concern is the incidence of HIV/AIDS among drug users. Over 8000 people, mainly young men in their 20s and 30s, die of a drugs overdose each year. Drug abuse remains high even if it seems to be levelling off in some Member States.

  There is more and more evidence of an increase in the use of cocaine among young Europeans. Estimates show that around 9 million Europeans have used it and that between 3 and 3.5 million have tried the drug in the last year, while as many as 1.5 million are classified as regular users.

  No downturn in the use. Nor is there any sign of a significant downturn in the use of other drugs. There is an upward trend in the use of ecstasy and amphetamine in most EU countries. Around 2.6 million adults have used ecstasy recently. Around 20 million or over 6% of all Europeans have used cannabis in the last year and regular cannabis users are estimated at around 9.5. Million.

  A coherent policy response. While the drugs situation varies from one country to another there can be no doubt that the problem cannot be solved by each Member State working alone. There has to be a coherent policy response across the EU

EU response

  Closer cooperation. The EU response to these worrying trends is ever closer cooperation between the Member States' authorities and with other partners active in the field and this must include civil society. This approach is reflected in the development of a European approach, a European "model", through the EU Drugs Strategies and EU Action Plans agreed by all 25 Member States.

  A balanced approach. The cornerstone of the EU's drug 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. This balance between public health and law enforcement reflects our view that a balance must be struck in any civilised society between peoples' rights and public safety and security.

  Why we are here today. I am sure that the European Union has chosen the right approach to deal with the drugs issue but also that we need to further improve our policies. The reason why we are gathered here today is to explore ways in which the many and varied groups representing civil society can contribute to achieving that objective.

  NGOs, key players in the drugs field. I have not been able to find a universally accepted or legal definition of the term `civil society'. But there can be no doubt that in day-to-day reality, civil society, in particular voluntary organisations and NGOs, are nevertheless key players in the drugs field: you give voice to the concerns of the citizens, and many of you deliver services that meet people's needs. In some Member States, many of the services to drug users, from prevention to treatment and rehabilitation, are provided by voluntary organisations.

  We want a dialogue. The objective of this conference and, I hope, of future consultations that we are here to prepare together, is to ensure that you are heard properly in the EU policy-making process. I am not saying it will be easy but I believe that consultation with stakeholders helps to improve the effectiveness of public policy. The European Commission wants a dialogue which makes a real contribution to dealing with this major problem.