EMCDDA logo Annual report on the state of the drugs problem in the European Union 2001

Home of the Annual Report
Introduction to the annual report
Chapter 1: Drug demand and drug supply
Chapter 2: Responses to drug use
Political and strategic responses
Specific responses
Chapter 3: Selected issues
Chapter 4: The drugs problem in central and eastern European countries
Figures and tables
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Political and strategic responses

At European Union level

The EU action plan on drugs (2000-04)
In June 2000, the European Council of Santa Maria da Feira endorsed the EU action plan on drugs (46KB) as a concrete follow-up to the EU drugs strategy (2000-04) (40KB).

The strategy set 11 general aims and six main targets for the EU and the action plan lists around 100 specific activities to be implemented by the EU by the end of 2004. The six main targets are:

  • to reduce significantly over five years the prevalence of drug use, as well as new recruitment to it, particularly among young users under 18 years of age;

  • to reduce substantially over five years the incidence of drug-related health damage (HIV, hepatitis, TBC, etc.) and the number of drug-related deaths;

  • to increase substantially the number of successfully treated addicts;

  • to reduce substantially over five years the availability of illicit drugs;

  • to reduce substantially over five years the number of drug-related crimes;

  • and to reduce substantially over five years money laundering and the illicit trafficking of precursor

Although not a legally binding document, the action plan is another step forward in the fight against drugs in the EU as it demonstrates the commitment of Member States towards implementing the goals set out in the strategy in 1999. The action plan contains guidelines and frameworks for the actions and stresses the importance of its regular evaluation - to be undertaken in 2002 and, on completion, at the end of 2004.

The action plan pays particular attention to coordination and information and it reflects the need for a balanced approach where drug demand reduction and supply reduction mutually reinforce one another. It also stresses the importance of integrating the candidate countries showing the EU's commitment to assisting these countries in dealing with the drugs problem as effectively as possible.


At national level - drug strategies in the European Union Member States

Heightened activity is reported in the Member States in the area of drug policy review and revision. The status, scope and content of these initiatives vary, but illustrate a visible trend towards strengthening and improving drug policy. This appears to be based on the mutual recognition that no single response is effective in tackling the multifaceted drugs problem - and that multifaceted responses are valuable when they form part of a coordinated, long-term strategy.

Scientific assessment and regular evaluation are recognised as essential in the review and revision of drug strategies. An approach used in several Member States is illustrated in Figure 17 which shows how renewed political awareness of the drug problem feeds into a cyclical process of scientific assessment, evaluation, political debate and formulation, adoption and action.

Figure 17

Figure 17

Drug coordination arrangements

Figure 18

Overview of recent drug strategy developments
Adopted 1998-1999
Vienna, Austria The Vienna drug policy programme, 1999 (132KB); Salzburg, action plan
France French drug strategy, 1999-2001
Northern Ireland Drug strategy: drug misuse in Northern Ireland: a policy statement (618KB), 1999
Norway Action plan for drug use reduction, 1998–2000
Portugal Portuguese drug strategy (490KB, PT) 2000
Scotland Drug strategy:tackling drugs in Scotland :action in partnership, 1999
Spain Spanish drug strateg (551KB). 2000-08
United Kingdom Drug strategy : ‘Tackling drugs to build a better Britain’ (12KB), 1998-2008
Adopted 2000-2001
Austria Action plans: Lower Austria, Styria
Belgium Political note (239KB, FR), 2001
Ireland Building on experience (827KB), Ireland’s National Drug Strategy, 2001-08
Luxembourg Action plan, 2000-04
Portugal Action plan (11KB, PT) 2000-04
Scotland Scottish executive action plan ‘Protecting our future’, (1.41MB) 2001
Wales Tackling substance misuse in Wales: a partnership approach (1.69MB), 2001
United Kingdom National plan 2000/2001
Underway 2000-2001
Finland Review of the decision-in-principle for 2001–03
Greece All-parties parliamentary study on drug policy measures, 2000
Sweden A plan of action regarding drugs is to be released in 2001

The EU action plan on drugs (2000-04) encourages Member States to establish and strengthen national coordination mechanisms and/or to appoint a national drugs coordinator with the objective of tackling drugs with a global, multidisciplinary, integrated and balanced strategy. It also calls on the Council to provide regular opportunities for those responsible for drugs at a national level to meet and exchange information on national developments and increase cooperation(20).

Drug coordination bodies or functions exist in all Member States, although major differences exist in their structure and organisation. To provide a clear picture of the drug coordination system in Europe, the EMCDDA undertook a preliminary review (778 KB) in 2000 which will be finalised in 2002. The results of this research show a move in some Member States to establish or strengthen coordination bodies at central level.

Some Member States (such as France, Portugal and Spain) link all aspects related to drugs and drug addiction in a body with highly hierarchical decision-making powers and at the direct service of the Prime Minister (Figure 19).

Figure 19, Horizontal holistic coordination

In other EU countries (such as Germany, Finland, Greece, Italy and the United Kingdom) coordination takes place at an inter-ministerial level - without recourse to a central coordination body - through regular contact and meetings between the governmental administrations involved in each of the several facets of the drugs problem. Usually, in this second model, the responsibility for drug coordination lies within the ministry/department of social affairs or health. A drug coordinator might also be present - responsible for matters relating to health and social aspects but also in charge of liasing with the governmental department working in other drugs-related fields (Figure 20).

(20) Article 1.1.3 of the EU action plan on drugs 2000 — 04, Cordrogue 32 9283/00

Figure 20, Specific domain coordination

Legislation and prosecution
The EMCDDA is committed to monitoring main trends and changes in drug laws. To this end, a drugs legal database presenting EU drug laws, legal profiles and comparative studies is accessible online at http://eldd.emcdda.org.

Main developments recorded recently include that in Portugal no penal sanctions will be applied to repress the private use of illicit substances after 1 July 2001 (law 30/2000 adopted in November 2000). The drug-use offender will instead be oriented to treatment or counselling by specific commissions. Since May 2001, cannabis use and possession in Luxembourg is punished only with monetary fines (according to the law of 27 April 2001). The Belgian Government intends to issue a decree in order to consider not punishable the 'non-problematic' use of cannabis.

Several reports indicate that individual drug use or possession of illegal drugs for personal consumption are not amongst the top priorities of European law-enforcement authorities: more serious crimes and drug trafficking are the main objects of judicial practice against drug-related offenders. The new measures towards the decriminalisation or non-prosecution of drug-use offences implemented in some Member States seem to confirm this tendency. A recent study on the prosecution of drug-related offences, commissioned by the EMCDDA in 2000, also found that the judicial process involving possession/use of small amounts of drugs in private is usually dropped before court stage. Public possession/use, sale by drug users and acquisitive crimes linked to drug addiction, however, often result in stronger measures by prosecutors and courts.

A drug court programme opened in Dublin in January 2001 with the objective of rehabilitating drug abuse offenders and tackling drug-related crime. This court - similar to the Canadian, Australian and American drug court models - is led by a judge specialised in drug issues who deals exclusively with non-violent drug-abuse offenders offering supervised treatment and rehabilitation instead of prison. The Scottish executive has also chosen to implement a drug court by the end of 2001, while in England a number of similar initiatives are being piloted.

A revision of the federal law in Austria entered into force on 8 April 2001 diminishing from 5 to 3 grams the threshold limit considered as a large 'quantity'. This will have a repercussion on the distinction between misdemeanours (acquisition and possession of small quantities) and felonies (production and possession of large quantities). Discussions have also taken place on the legal status of medical cannabis.

In Germany, an amendment to the federal German narcotic law defined a basic framework in which each Land is able to define the minimum standards required for the establishment of users' rooms (that is, rooms where injecting drug users can use drugs under hygienic conditions). In this way the Land can decide whether to allow consumption rooms. The law also establishes a central register for substitution treatment and requires training for physicians offering such treatment. In Portugal, following public debate, a decree law is envisaged to regulate the setting up of users' rooms. In Luxembourg, the law 27 of April 2001 provides the legal basis for the creation of users' rooms.

As far as confiscation of criminal assets deriving from drugs crimes is concerned, a draft bill has been proposed in the United Kingdom to establish a Criminal Assets Recovery Agency and to introduce a civil recovery scheme to deprive criminals of illegal assets. Similarly, the government in Finland submitted a proposal to the parliament to confiscate proceeds of drug-related crime in cases where illegal provenance is suspected, the so-called reversal of burden of proof. In Ireland, since 1996 when the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) was established on a statutory footing(21), the onus has been on the criminal to prove assets were obtained legitimately. In Spain, for five years the national plan on drugs has been administering confiscated illegal profits. In 2000 alone, more than EUR 4.5 million, derived from illegal, seized assets (boats, cars, money) were 'returned' to fight against drugs: EUR 1 543 137 to the repression of drug trafficking and EUR 2 978 014 to drug prevention and rehabilitation programmes.

Drugs expenditure
In the context of monitoring responses in the Member States to the drugs problem, comprehensive research was carried out in 2000 to collect, analyse and estimate the level of public expenditure on drugs. A government's expenditure, both in the area of health care and law enforcement, was calculated through measuring direct costs (expenditure directly labelled as drug related) and indirect costs (expenditure incurred as a consequence of the drugs problem in generic administrations, such as prisons).

Despite a number of differences, a similar policy of allocation of resources in the drugs field can be seen across the EU Member States. Globally, between 70 and 75 % of the budget is spent on law enforcement and the rest on health care.

(21) Criminal Assets Bureau Act, 1996; Proceeds of Crime Act, 1999.


Political and strategic responses | Specific responses

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