The Encod Steering Committee draws the following conclusions of its meeting with officials of the Drugs Coordination Unit of the European Commission on 3 Sep 2009.
Writing these conclusions took so long because of a number of reasons. From our side the most important reason was that we wanted to be sure that we understood well what we had heard. The questions about the money and about the scope of the deliberations within CSF were still unclear, and we asked for clarification.
For that reason, we gave the DCU a preview of our draft report. The reaction from DCU was unsatisfactory and unconvincing, and we needed some time to determine our further plan. On the basis of these events, we’ve come to the following conclusions.
1. The EC is resisting our efforts to discuss the true impact of drug policies on society, and possible ways to improve that impact by alternative methods and policies, with unfair methods and incorrect statements.
2. The DCU cannot explain the contradictions about the scope of the issues that are dealt with in the Civil Society Forum. The DCU representatives declared that the CSF cannot address drug policy as such. However, on its own website, the Commission describes the aim of the CSF as follows:
“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.”
It seems clear to us that our demand to place the prohibition/regulation debate on the agenda cannot be refused. By trying to avoid the debate on this crucial question in European public policy, the Commission is violating the principles of good governance.
3. The second controversial theme, the spending of the money that was allocated to the Civil Society Forum remains unclear even after the response we received from DCU. It seems likely that money that was meant for a dialogue with civil society on drug policy (CSF) was used for the European Action on Drugs, which is set up as a rather old-fashioned propaganda campaign to warn against the dangers of drugs. When this 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 by the lack of professionality in the design of the campaign.
Our conclusion is that the Commission is trying to transform the Civil Society Forum into an expensive chatroom, and has diverted part of the money that was meant for CSF to an anti-drug propaganda campaign that nobody has asked for.
The first of these actions can still be prevented, and the second one can be corrected.
We expect that in the coming months, things will become clear. The “Report on Global Illicit Drug Markets 1998 – 2007“, published by the European Commission just before the CND in March 2009, contains a valuable database and conclusions. However, no recommendations were asked from the authors, and they were not formulated.
It is our opinion that during the coming session the CSF needs to discuss this report, and formulate recommendations.
The most important recommendation that follows from the EC report is that the issue of drug regulation needs to be placed on the agenda of both the EU and the UN. Since no member state seems to be willing to do this, NGOs will have to take this initiative.
It is obvious to us that in the mean time the debate about legal regulation of drug markets must start within the CSF.
To reach this goal Encod will formally demand that alternative regulatory regimes for illicit drugs be placed on the agenda of the CSF.
We will inform other participants of the CSF and start to contact Members of the European Parliament of this, asking them to remind the Commission of her responsibility to use the money for the purpose it was allocated for: to discuss drug policy.
The Commission has created the illusion of a dialogue with civil society, and afterwards undermines this dialogue by referring to a nonexistent rule, that nothing can be discussed that is not explicitly in the mandate of the European Commission. Instead, it should transmit all proposals that result from the CSF to the European Council of Ministers, being the policy making entity.
Besides, we will develop actions in our own countries, directed at our own politicians, to motivate them to put the issue of drug regulation on the agenda of national parliaments. From Scandinavia to the Mediterranean, from Ireland to Bulgaria, we will press for political debate on the key question: do we dare to change our drug policies or will those of the former millennium continue?
Marisa Felicissimo, Belgium
Antonio Escobar, Spain
Fredrick Polak, The Netherlands
Jorge Roque, Portugal
Encod Steering Committee