On Monday 27 June 2005, a new EU Action Plan on Drugs (2005-2008) will be approved. On this occasion, ENCOD sent a letter to the Members of the EU Horizontal Working Party on Drugs, the formal decision-making body in the European Union when it comes to drug policies.
Antwerpen, 16 June 2005
To the members of the Horizontal Working Party on Drugs
Dear Madams, Sirs,
In the coming days, the European Council is planning to approve a new EU Action Plan on Drugs (2005-2008).
We urge the Horizontal Working Party on Drugs to cancel the approval of the new Action Plan. This Plan is a repetition of the last EU Drug Strategy (2000-2004). An evaluation carried out by the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) pointed out that none of the 6 objectives of this strategy has been achieved.
This means that a policy is being continued which has been shown to be ineffective by the institution whose task it is to inform authorities about the impact of their policies. Authorities responsible for drug policies are thus ignoring the evidence that their policies do not work, while they are supposed to base their policies on evidence of what works and what does not. In democratic societies, we should not continue with policies that we know do not work. In the European Union, the costs of maintaining the prohibition of drugs amount to 6,5 billion euros a year.
In december 2004, the European Parliament approved a set of recommendations towards future EU drug policy, known as the ‘Catania report’. This report proposes a radical change in EU drug policy, and advocates a scientific and balanced approach in stead of maintaining drug prohibition. It also recommends to take concrete measures to involve relevant civil society organizations in the design and implementation of drug policy.
Nevertheless, in the new EU Action Plan on Drugs (2005 – 2008) that was presented by the European Commission in May 2005, the main recommendations of the European Parliament have been ignored.
Europe is historically a place where a truly new concept of drug policy, based on the evidence that is collected from the daily reality on the streets, could be developed. This new concept should be more just, in taking into account the health and safety of the millions of people who are daily affected by the drug issue in Europe, as well as more effective, in tackling the roots of (un-) organised crime related to drugs, such as money laundering, and global social diseases like terrorism and corruption.
The Catania report is a first step towards this. The report is a huge achievement to obtain political consensus about what should be the key direction of intelligent drug policies: harm reduction, allowing space for the positive uses of substances that are currently illegal, and last but not least: involvement of civil society in the drug policy making process. A petition that was organised by ENCOD in favour of the integration of the report in official EU drug policy in the past two months collected 52.000 signatures. By comparison: on the website that was installed by the European Commission between July and November 2004 to collect comments from the public on the new EU Drug Strategy, no more than 35 responses were received.
On 25 May 2005, a delegation of ENCOD had a meeting with staff members of the Anti-Drugs Coordination Unit of the Directorate Justice, Security and Freedom of the European Commission. At this meeting, we asked the Commission to establish as soon as possible a consultation process to determine the way in which relevant civil society organisations could effectively contribute to the improvement of drug policies on both national and EU level.
In the meeting, we were told that the European Commission actually agrees with ENCOD that a dialogue with civil society is urgently needed and that it would result in a win-win situation. However, we were also told that bureaucratic procedures are making it impossible to start this dialogue before 2007, at the earliest.
Meanwhile, if it is approved in the coming days, the new EU Action Plan on Drugs will repeat the mistake of the former ones, while both civil society and European Parliament have indicated the possible alternatives.
Therefore we urge on the members of the Horizontal Working Party on Drugs to postpone the approval of the new Action Plan on Drugs until there has been a decent and transparant reflection process on the implications of the Catania report for this Action Plan. This should include the facilitation of a true consultation process with relevant civil society organisations and local authorities in Europe, aimed at diminishing the current democratic deficit on drug policy in Europe.
ENCOD is entirely dedicated to play a role in this process.
Thanks very much for your attention. We hope to hear from you.
On behalf of ENCOD
Fernanda de la Figuera, Spain
Farid Ghehioueche, France
Joep Oomen, Netherlands
Peter Sarosi, Hungary
Bruno Valkeneers, Belgium
EUROPEAN COALITION FOR JUST AND EFFECTIVE DRUG POLICIES (ENCOD)
Lange Lozanastraat 14 2018 Antwerpen Belgium