Brussels acts against drug use and trafficking
(BRUSSELS) - The EU Commission proposed Wednesday a new action plan on drugs to strengthen the EU's response to the newly-emerging health and security challenges in the area of illicit drug use and trafficking.
The plan identifies new priority areas for action, including the monitoring of new psychoactive substances as well as the use of new communication technologies for prevention of drug abuse and evidence gathering on the potential connection between drug trafficking and financing of terrorist groups, organised crime, migrant smuggling or trafficking in human beings.
"The use of illicit drugs continues to be a considerable challenge in many of our societies, affecting, directly and indirectly, the lives of millions of people in Europe and all over the world," said Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos. "In a constantly evolving drugs market, reducing drugs use and demand requires an adequate and effective response through coordinated actions at both EU and Member States level. This is precisely what today's Action Plan does, building on our achievements so far and clearly outlining the actions and objectives in order to tackle the new health and security challenges for the future."
Approximately 88 million adults in the EU, or almost one quarter of the adult population, are estimated to have tried illicit drugs in their lifetime. Over 17 million adults have tried cocaine and 12 million have tried amphetamines. In addition, 1.3 million adults are high-risk opioid users. EU citizens spend an estimated €24 billion every year on illicit drugs, making the illicit drugs market one of the most dynamic and lucrative criminal markets. More than one third of the criminal groups active in the EU are involved in the production, trafficking or distribution of various types of drugs according to Europol's 2017 Serious Organised Crime Threat Assessment.
Over the past few years, new psychoactive substances (NPSs) have become increasingly available on the market, posing serious health threats. The Internet has the potential to further develop as a source of supply for NPSs. Moreover, Internet-facilitated drugs have also considerably impacted the mode of drugs trafficking.
The new action plan proposes the following actions:
- Drug demand reduction: The Action Plan calls for enhanced use of information and communications technologies (ICT) for prevention purposes, such as awareness raising activities, targeting young people in particular. It also encourages measures to better address the needs of older drug users and vulnerable communities as well as focusing on the reduction of health and social harms caused by drug use.
- Drug supply reduction: In order to address the increase of new psychoactive substances (NPSs) across the EU, the Action Plan calls for a rapid adoption and swift implementation of the new legislative package on new psychoactive substances proposed by the Commission in August 2016.It also calls for the use of alternative sanctions for drug-using offenders.
- Coordination: The Action Plan suggests further steps for greater coherence and coordination between Council working groups to ensure coherence between demand and supply reduction activities as well as a more inclusive policy formulation process with the participation of civil society at both the EU and national levels.
- International Cooperation: An improved capacity of EU delegations is necessary to engage on drugs-related issues and networks at regional level. Greater focus should be placed on combating illegal drug crop cultivation and on enhancing alternative development. The EU should also explore ways of engaging with other countries whenever serious drugs-related issues arise.
- Research and information: The Action Plan suggests reinforced efforts in the area of research to identify any potential connections of drug trafficking with other organised crime activities, such as terrorist financing, migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings. In addition, it focuses on the need to analyse current cannabis policy models and their impact.
The plan will now be put forward to the European Parliament and the Council for discussion and final approval.