DATE: 16 APRIL 2010
On 16 April 2010, the ENCOD Steering Committee met with Dr João GOULÃO and Mrs. Ana Sofia SANTOS
Mr. Goulao is both the president of the Portuguese Drug Institute (IDT) and Chairman of the Management Board of the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction. Mrs. Santos is the coordinator International Relations of the IDT.
The IDT played a positive role in the development of Portuguese drug policy reform that has taken place in the past years. The EMCDDA was set up in 1993 as an intent to gather European figures on drug policy and base policies upon a comparison between them. During the establishment of the EMCDDA the European Commission asked NGOs to form a platform in order to interact with the EMCDDA. The result was ENCOD was founded. After the EMCDDA was finally estblished in November 1993 all formal contacts with ENCOD were broken.
So we approached Mr. Goulao with the suggestion that EMCDDA supports the set up of a real dialogue with civil society and EU institutions, to take place in the European Parliament later this year. We told him about the experiences of the Civil Society Forum (CSF), which has been a painful failure so far. We informed him of the hearing in the European Parliament of 23 February where the Reuter Trautmann report was presented and the need to explore the alternatives to current drug policies. Also with the aim of finding regulations for people who suffer and making sure good regulations are found for new drugs.
Goulao’s reaction was very positive in a sense that he started saying he had no problem with drugs or drug use, but he has a problem with the harm they may cause. He made clear that on a national level he wants to establish institutional dialogue with drug users and activists. He also said that it was among others the documents from Encod which had inspited him to advance to the drug decriminalization law in Portugal. He explained that the objective of the police in Portugal is not anymore to arrest drug users to get the small dealers, but to catch the medium size drug dealers in order to get the big fishes.
But in reaction to the concrete question: could EMCDDA “save” the dialogue process on drug policy with civil society in the EU, Mr. Goulao and Mrs. Santos were very formal: there is no way the EMCDDA can take own initiatives, and the subject of the CSF is apparently very sensitive still in the meetings of the Horizontal Drug Group (HDG, the monthly meetings of drug policy spokespeople of the 27 Member States of the EU. Some Member States did not want the CSF to take place at all. Others have said they do not want the CSF to report to the HDG.
On our questions if the EMCDDA could play a role in organising a so-called “impact assessment” to investigate the impact of current policies and alternative schemes, or if it could be a standard rule to involve civil society organisations as a feedback partner in research or the annual report, the answer was that EMCDDA is a scientific institution but can only follow orders from the European Commission. It cannot take a pro-active role, taking initatives by itself.
They also said there had been no discussion on the Reuter Trautmann report in the Horizontal Drugs Groups whatsoever, contradicting what we have been told earlier by the European Commission.