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Need for a Europe-wide debate on a vexed subject

The EU must be more effective in its fight against drugs trafficking, and should call on Member States to be more ready to learn from each other's experiences and to encourage cross-border dialogue between their local governments and cities.

These are the key points of the House of Lords EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee's report, The EU Drugs Strategy, published today.

Following a six month-long inquiry, the Committee agree that the Member States should, as now, retain responsibility for their own drugs policies. They recommend that the new EU Strategy should concentrate on three key areas:

  • Co-ordination of the fight against drug trafficking: the EU needs to strengthen its laws on money laundering and the ability of law enforcement agencies to seize the proceeds of crime. The Government must sign and ratify the Warsaw Convention on money laundering.  The EU must also ensure that any new measures actually reduce the supply of drugs and do not merely move trafficking elsewhere.
  • Improvement of the collection, analysis, evaluation and distribution of information: Member States need to learn from each other's experiences and research. There should be statistics which are more comparable, and funds should be put to better use in the drugs field.
  • Reliance on the EU's public health obligations: the EU should use its public health duties to encourage Member States to devote more resources to harm reduction and to engage in dispassionate and evidence-based discussions on how best to treat the possession and use of drugs.

Lord Hannay, Committee Chairman, talks more about the report in a YouTube video here, and commenting on the report said:

“In 2008, an estimated €34billion was spent on the drugs problem in the EU. Much more needs to be done – and must be done - in the battle against the EU's drugs problem.

“Member States need to retain primary responsibility for their drugs policies, but the EU also has an important part to play. Through Europol, it can lead and coordinate the fight against drug traffickers. The data collected, analysed and disseminated by the European Monitoring Centre will allow better evidence-based decisions to be made on drugs issues, and will enable Member States to exchange information about any newly-developed psychoactive drugs and to decide which to ban, and when.

“We also believe that Member States should use the adoption of the new strategy as an opportunity to look again at the treatment of drug users.  After hearing evidence about the Portuguese experience of decriminalising drugs, we think all Member States should take time to consider how preventative measures for education and treatment, and increasing use of harm reduction measures, could benefit not just drug users but the public as a whole.

“We believe that the creation of a new drugs strategy, lasting until 2020, should provide the perfect platform for a wider and better informed public debate on different Member States' policies and approaches. In this way, we can ensure that the EU's performance in reducing both the supply and demand for drugs progresses, and that the strategy educates and protects people all over Europe.”

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