By: Dennis de Jong (chair of the SP group in the European Parliament)
March 16th, 2010 • On 23rd February the European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies (ENCOD) held a public hearing in the European Parliament. This seemed a desperate attempt from the organisations affiliated to ENCOD to draw attention to the need for a more liberal drugs policy in the EU member states. I heartily support this initiative and made that clear in my contribution to the hearing. It’s high time that the European Commission stopped mindlessly following the hard-liners and instead began for once to listen to what people who have daily contact with drug users have to say.
During the European Parliament election campaign I warned in relation to this issue that via strengthened cooperation in the area of Justice and Home Affairs as a consequence of the coming into force of the Lisbon Treaty (the successor to the European Constitution), the existing Dutch drugs policy could be in serious jeopardy. It is the aim of the member states that they recognise each other’s judgements. What this implies is that you could be arrested by the Dutch police because when you were in France you smoked a joint. To do so in France is a punishable offence, and the Netherlands is obliged to respect France’s judgements and put them into practice.
The member states are thus moving ever closer to a harmonised criminal law, and this means that the existing policy, under which the use of soft drugs is not subject to prosecution, is coming under increasing pressure. For Christian Democrat politicians in particular, this is precisely in line with their wishes: their party, the CDA, has long rejected the ‘coffeeshops’ where soft drugs are sold openly in limited quantities, and wants to be rid of them. This view also prevails in Brussels, so Europe can give the CDA a helping hand.
ENCOD quite correctly points to the Reuter-Trautmann Report, which was done, remember, at the behest of the European Commission. This report made it clear that the repressive drug policy pursued by most member states has failed. Drug use has increased, the price of some drugs has fallen – which shows that supply has also increased, despite all the repression) and prevention campaigns are outmoded and ineffective. The Commission did nothing further with this report, while justice ministers also close their eyes to reality, thinking it fashionable to argue for still more repression, even if it has been demonstrated that it has no effect.
Hopefully during the hearing it will be made clear to the representatives of the Commission and of the member states that it makes sense to listen to the members of the Civil Forum, which was established by the European Commission itself. Represented in the Civil Forum are social organisations who argue for a more liberal drugs policy. They have, moreover, effective solutions: decriminalisation of production and consumption of soft drugs and a social policy aimed at helping – above all – young people in disadvantaged areas to find a meaningful existence so that they will no longer have any need of drugs. To date the Commission has not paid heed to members of this Forum but it is to be hoped that this will soon change. If Europe then still feels the need to talk about drugs policy, let’s hear for once a creative contribution from Brussels.