This year sees the end of the EU’s current drugs strategy (2005–12) and its second four-year action plan (2009–12). In a report published today, the UK House of Lords European Union Committee looks at what the strategy has achieved, and what should come next. The report welcomes how the EU applies the principle of subsidiarity in this area, underlining the value of the strategy in ‘providing a guiding framework within which Member States can formulate their national drug policies’. Looking to the future, the committee suggests that the next strategy should concentrate on ‘areas where the EU can make a major contribution’, such as the coordination of the fight against drug trafficking. It also underlines the need to encourage the development and improvement of the collection, analysis, evaluation and distribution of information on the drugs issue, praising the EMCDDA for its work in this field.
HOUSE OF LORDS
European Union Committee
26th Report of Session 2010–12
The EU Drugs Strategy
This year sees the end of the EU’s current eight-year Drugs Strategy and second four-year action plan. In this report we look to see what the Strategy has achieved, and what should come next.
In general, we welcome the practical application by the EU of the principle of subsidiarity in this area. We agree with our witnesses that most aspects of drugs policies should remain within the competence of the Member States. The role of the EU should continue to be to complement, and where possible to strengthen and add value to, the actions of Member States. We also welcome the cooperation in this area between cities and across national boundaries, and call for this to be increased.
We believe that the European Drugs Strategy has been of value in providing a guiding framework within which Member States can formulate their national drug policies. In our view, however, previous aims of demand reduction and supply reduction have been too broadbrush to be useful as a guide to EU policy formulation: they should not therefore be treated as the main objectives of the next EU Strategy. Instead, we recommend that the new EU Drugs Strategy should be better focused and, while respecting the present division of competences, should seek to give a useful sense of direction to national policies.
We suggest that the next Strategy should concentrate on the areas where the EU can make a major contribution.
The first of these areas is coordination of the fight against drug trafficking. On the legislative front, the EU should better focus on money laundering and strengthen provisions on the seizure of the proceeds of crime. On the operational side, through Europol and other agencies, it can directly contribute to the fight against drug trafficking. And we believe EU aid and EU research programmes should devote more resources to crop diversification away from drugs, and to drug related research projects.
The Strategy should also make clear that anti-trafficking measures must guard against displacing the problem to countries and regions not previously affected where they can cause significant damage to civil society; must have regard to the human rights of those involved; and must be subjected to evaluation as demand reduction measures have been. We believe that working on these fronts will be more productive than revising existing legislation on maximum penalties and newly developed psychoactive substances.
We were impressed by the work of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, and the regard in which it is held around the world. We therefore recommend that any future Strategy should seek to safeguard this agency’s future and should continue to encourage the development and improvement of the collection, analysis, evaluation and distribution of information on the drugs issue so that Member States can learn from each other’s experiences and benefit from each other’s research.
We were struck by the evidence we heard from Portugal on the effectiveness of their public health orientated national drug strategy. We therefore recommend that the new Strategy should use the EU’s public health obligations to encourage the inclusion of harm reduction measures in the national policies of the Member States. It should be recognised that health policy is as important as law enforcement policy in this field and that education also has a significant role to play.
Finally, we believe that the formulation and adoption of a new Drugs Strategy offers a golden opportunity to widen the public debate, to consider as dispassionately as possible the different policies and approaches and to narrow the gap between theory and practice, and thus to achieve a better consensus about the best way of proceeding. We urge the EU institutions, in particular the Commission and the Parliament, to make sure that this takes place.
140. We welcome and endorse the universally high esteem in which the agency is held. We believe it should continue to work towards common definitions and a common data collection practice, and should encourage Member States to do likewise. We urge the Government to do all it can to assist in this.
141. We agree that the EMCDDA should play no part in grading the success or failure of the policies of the different Member States. However we believe that the agency, without compromising its policy neutrality, could do more to indicate when the evidence points to a particular policy having been successful.
142. During the current negotiations on the Multiannual Financial Framework 2014–2020, and during the annual budgetary negotiations, the Government should ensure that the resources of the EMCDDA are at least retained at their current level in real terms.
The House of Lords European Union Committee considers EU documents in advance of decisions being taken on them in Brussels, in order to influence the Government’s position and to hold them to account.