In a joint statement, Member of European Parliament Giusto Catania, rapporteur on drugs policy of the Committee of Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, and ENCOD, platform of European NGO’s working in the field of drugs, regret the approval, on Monday 27 June, of a new EU Action Plan on Drugs for the period 2005 – 2008.
According to Catania and ENCOD, the European Council has missed the opportunity to implement a fundamental change of course in its policies towards the drug issue. This change is considered necessary as there is increasing evidence that current policies to reduce the availability and consumption of drugs in the EU are not working. An evaluation of the former EU Drug Strategy (2000-2004) that was carried out by the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) in October 2004 pointed out that none of the 6 objectives of this strategy has been achieved.
In December 2004, the European Parliament approved the Catania report, a set of recommendations towards future EU drug policy. This report proposes a radical change in EU drug policy and advocates harm reduction and a scientific and balanced approach in stead of maintaining drug prohibition.
On a Public Hearing of the Civil Liberties Committee in the European Parliament on 21 April 2005, representatives of official institutions (such as Bob Keizer, chair of the Pompidou Group of the Council of Europe), as well as local authorities (Lord Mayor Gert Leers of the Dutch city of Maastricht) stressed the need to review the current approach to drugs in the EU.
Finally, in the past three months, ENCOD organised a petition among EU citizens in favour of the integration of the Catania report in the Action Plan, which until now collected more than 53.000 signatures. Nevertheless, in the new EU Action Plan on Drugs these signals have been practically ignored.
MEP Giusto Catania declared that “there is still a worrying democratic gap in the EU: the European Commission and the European Council ignore the decisions of the Parliament and this is unacceptable. We will continue in social mobilisation and will fight together with local authorities, crossing this with the European Parliament work and struggle for better policies: we are sure that, in the long term, this will contribute in modifying the arrogance of Governments.”
According to ENCOD’s coordinator Joep Oomen, “the new EU Action Plan on Drugs will repeat the mistake of the former ones, while both experts, civil society organisations and the European Parliament have indicated the possible alternatives. In the entire European Union, the expenses of drug-related law enforcement can be estimated at 6,5 billion EURO per year (or 18 million EURO per day), which can not be used for social and prevention programmes. At a time where the European Union has huge difficulties to bridge the democratic deficit with its citizens, the approval of this Action Plan without taking into account the opinion of the European Parliament is an extremely negative example of what kind of democracy the European Union pretends to be.”