The European Union Drug Strategy: Progress and Problems
This briefing paper gives an overview of the development of drug policies within the European Union, and the institutions and structures that exist to implement and evaluate these policies. Taking the EMCDDA Report 2006, and the European Commission 2006 Progress Review as their starting point, the IDPC analyses the strengths and weaknesses of current arrangements, and makes some recommendations for future action.
The European Union has been a useful vehicle for the discussion and co-ordination of drug policies between the 27 member states. Over the last 10 years, significant progress has been achieved across Europe in the monitoring and description of drug problems, and policy and programme responses, and greater understanding gained of policy similarities and differences.
In addition, Member States, the Commission, Parliament, and relevant agencies have been able to agree a clear strategy and set of actions for the coming years that are directed at increasing co-operation and effectiveness in reducing illegal drug use and associated problems across the Union.
However, current evaluation data suggest that drug use in Europe is only being contained at best and, despite several successes in reducing the harmful consequences, problems such as drug related crime, drug related deaths, and rates of Hepatitis infection among drug injectors, remain unacceptably high. We therefore suggest ways in which current EU strategy and actions could be strengthened in the coming months and years, and commend these recommendations to the members of the Horizontal Working Party on Drugs, the group responsible for co-ordinating EU action in this field.
The International Drug Policy Consortium commends the EU, its agencies and Member States, for their commitment to a balanced and evidence-based approach to this difficult policy area.
The creation of successive strategies, and the increasingly clear definition of evaluation processes and mechanisms, provides analysts, and potentially the general public, with a clearer picture of what policy is trying to achieve, and what is being done in support of these objectives.
A notable exception in this trend of improving evaluation mechanisms is the current weakness of structures and processes for assessing the achievements of supply reduction efforts. The key political and institutional challenge for the coming years is to use the evaluation data and analysis that is available in a transparent and rigorous way.
It seems unlikely that we will be able to report clear success in significantly reducing the scale of illegal drug use across Europe during the lifetime of this strategy. Conversely, it is likely that some areas of existing investment are shown to be ineffective, and that therefore patterns of investment will need to change.
Policymakers need to have the courage to face these dilemmas constructively, and facilitate a mature debate about how best to protect the health and security of EU citizens over the medium and long term.
- Articles & Videos