Western Balkans: IPA7 project advisory committee takes stock of progress and looks ahead to 2022

The advisory committee of the EMCDDA’s Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA7) project held its second meeting today to discuss the state of play of the project (1). Funded by the EU, IPA7 aims to increase evidence on the drug situation in six Western Balkan partners (2), familiarise them with EU policies and working methods and prepare them for participating in the work of the EMCDDA. IPA7 was launched in July 2019 and will run until the end of 2022.

Today’s online meeting — organised by the EMCDDA, the European Commission and the European External Action Service — brought together some 25 participants. The meeting reviewed preliminary results of ongoing work, discussed challenges and opportunities and looked ahead at activities planned for 2022.

In terms of challenges, the COVID-19 pandemic has meant moving away from face-to-face events and towards organising meetings, training and capacity-building exercises online. However, the pandemic has also brought a number of unexpected opportunities and positive results. These include the application, for the first time, of EMCDDA trendspotter techniques to measure the impact of COVID-19 on drug services and markets in the region (see Briefing 1 on drug use and services and Briefing 2 on drug markets and supply).

The meeting found that, overall, substantial progress had been achieved in most areas of the project, particularly in the field of routine drug monitoring data. New data sets will serve as a basis for a recently launched online training course, which will result in updated national drug situation overviews by mid-2022.

As the project enters its final year, the focus will be on finalising activities and delivering major outputs, including a strategic overview of cross-border health and security threats in the Western Balkans and how the latter impact on the EU.

IPA7 video

Coinciding with the meeting, a video showcasing the project — ‘EMCDDA beyond EU borders: spotlight on pre-accession partners (IPA)’ — was launched on the EMCDDA’s YouTube channel. The video (in English) explains how the agency's collaboration with the Western Balkan region since December 2007 has helped strengthen drug monitoring systems and share best practice.