On 20 November the ENCOD Steering Committee has sent the following letter to the Members of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs of the European Parliament. We ask you to do the same. The email adresses can be found on the page of the Committee
REQUEST TO THE MEMBERS OF THE CIVIL LIBERTIES COMMITTEE OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT
Brussels, 20 November 2009
Dear Member of European Parliament
Herewith, we, as members of the European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies, a pan-European platform of NGOs and individual
citizens working in the field of drugs, call your attention to an urgent matter which deserves your intervention.
We have reason to believe that the European Commission is manipulating and undermining the dialogue mechanisms with civil society and it is mis-using funds that were allocated for these purposes by the European Parliament for top-down initiatives that nobody outside the European Commission has asked for.
Concretely we refer to the way in which the Drugs Coordination Unit at the Directorate for Justice, Freedom and Security, has dealt with the so-called “Civil Society Forum on Drug Policy in the EU”.
After years of written and verbal engagements made by the European Council and Commission to establish a concrete mechanism of dialogue with European civil society organisations working in the field of drug policy, in December 2007 the so-called Civil Society Forum was created. This Forum consists of the representatives of 26 organisations that were selected by the Commission after a rather obscure selection procedure.
The aim of this forum, according to the website of the Commission, is “to increase informal consultation and the
input of civil society on drug-related activities, policy proposals, policy implementation and priorities of the EU Drugs Strategy and the EU Action Plan on Drugs.”
The European Parliament, in its report on the CSF of March 2008 has insisted that the purpose of the Civil Society Forum should be to “strengthen the role
played by civil society in developing a drugs policy embodying a European approach, which is the main objective of the 2005-2012 EU drugs strategy”. The EP also stressed the need to “base drugs policies on sound scientific evidence obtained in cooperation with civil society in the field of drugs-related research, fact-driven policies and to implement evidence-based activities, including those aimed at
preventing and reducing health-related harm”.
The CSF has been organised three times, each involving a meeting of one and a half days in Brussels (in December 2007, May 2008 and March 2009). In none of these sessions has it been possible to discuss drug policy in the European Union. This has been due to the intervention of the DCU representatives of the European Commission (Drugs Coordination Unit) who have had the monopoly in preparing the agenda and moderating these sessions. Every request of participants to put on the agenda the impact of current drug policies and possible alternative regulatory schemes has been denied by the DCU representatives. Instead the CSF sessions have consisted of rather unstructured information exchanges without a clear agenda nor follow up procedure, leading to an increasing frustration among its participants.
In early September of 2009, the ENCOD Steering Committee had a meeting with representatives of the DCU. In response to our question why a discussion on drug policy/regulation is impossible to have within the framework of the CSF, the Commission’s representatives stated that “they have only limited mandate to act on the drug field, as it is the member states who have autonomy to decide which policies they will adopt.” Never in the process of creating the CSF (which involved conferences, publication of a Green Paper and a long lasting selection procedure ongoing since January 2006)
had this argument been mentioned.
It is our opinion that by using this formal argument to avoid the debate on a crucial question in European public policy, the Commission is violating the principles of good governance. By creating the illusion that the European Union is interested in a forthright dialogue on drug policies with citizens, and afterwards reducing this dialogue to an expensive “chatroom” for selected representatives who are
invited to Brussels, the Commission deliberately undermines the purpose of the dialogue.
Furthermore, at our meeting with the Commission it appeared that the DCU is unable to clearly account for the spending of the money that was allocated to the Civil Society Forum. This money is taken from the Drugs Information and Prevention Budget which was approved by the European Parliament in 2007. In the third session of the CSF in March 2009, the DCU representatives stated that the CSF operated with an annual budget of approximately 100.000 euros a year, which would be enough to organise two sessions a year. At the same time it was said that the next CSF session would be held only in 2010.
When we tried to get clarification on this matter, DCU representatives replied by email at the end of May 2009 that the rest of the funds for the CSF in 2009 would be used for the European Action on Drugs Campaign, a propaganda campaign against the dangers of drugs proposed by the French presidency in the end of 2008 and designed solely by the European Commission without any consultation with civil society organisations. When the European Action on Drugs campaign was proposed at the last session of the CSF in March 2009, it was almost unanimously rejected by
the participants, who expressed their indignation for the lack of professionality in the design of the campaign.
In March 2009, just one day before the opening session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna, the European Commission presented the “Report on Global Illicit Drug Markets 1998 – 2007″ ([the
Reuter-Trautmann report->http://ec.europa.eu/justice_home/doc_centre/drugs/studies/doc/report_short_10_03_09_en.pdf]) This report contains a valuable database and conclusions that confirm those of other evaluation reports on drug policies in the EU of past years. These conclusions are that current policies are failing in their main objective, which is to reduce the demand and supply of illicit drugs, and that it is possible that they are a crucial factor in generating and increasing harm to individual drug consumers, their direct surroundings and society at large.
The authors of the report mentioned above have not been asked to produce any recommendations. According to DCU representatives, the report “does
not contain sufficient data to be called an evaluation”. Thus, it seems likely that the report, the result of one year of scientific research
into all available data on drugs phenomenon in the EU, will soon be forgotten.
We believe that the Reuter-Trautmann report should be discussed by the Civil Society Forum. Therefore, we formally request you to support our
petition to the European Commission to place a discussion of the report on the agenda of the coming CSF, that should be organised before March 1st, 2010. Besides, we believe that the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties should also discuss the findings of the report.
We ask you to discuss this request on the forthcoming meeting of the Civil Liberties Committee.
Marisa Felicissimo, Belgium
Antonio Escobar, Spain
Fredrick Polak, The Netherlands
Jorge Roque, Portugal
ENCOD Steering Committee