European Union discussion on response to Bolivia's denunciation of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs

Latest update: November 28, 2012
28 November 2012
Article

The following notes are summaries of the EU Horizontal Working Party on Drugs discussions about Bolivia’s coca amendment and denunciation of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, taken from the reports of their meetings since September 2010.

The EU Horizontal Working Party on Drugs, usually referred to as the “Horizontal Drug Group” (HDG) is the committee for drug policy falling under the European Council, the main inter-governmental decisional body of the European Union with legislative power. The HDG consists of delegations from the Member States (generally composed of one representative of the Ministry for Health and one of the Home Office, Justice Ministry or Foreign Ministry). Also represented are the European Commission, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drugs Addiction (EMCDDA), Europol and the European Agency for the Evaluation of Medicinal Products.


Brussels, 5 October 2010
14089/10 - CORDROGUE 81

Meeting of the Horizontal Working Party on Drugs
on: 13 September 2010

Summary of discussions (link to the original document)

Request of Bolivia on the status of coca leaf

At the request of the FR delegation the Presidency gave an overview of the situation. According to the procedure set in the UN Convention, if a draft amendment has not been rejected within 18 months, it will be adopted. The deadline to react to the Bolivian proposal is 31 January 2011.

The Presidency invited the delegations to prepare their national positions and called for adoption of a harmonized EU position on the issue. The Presidency also stressed that the EU decision has to be based on the scientific evidence and not on the political objectives.

Some delegations suggested to find out the positions of the other countries, first of all the USA on the Bolivian request. The Presidency noted that such an attempt has been made, but the countries are hesitating to declare their position and are waiting for other countries to do that first.

The Presidency would try to prepare a document for the October HDG meeting which would indicate the lowest possible common denominator of the EU Member States on Bolivian request. Several points of view would be possible:

− to take a political decision not to support Bolivian request;

− to allow the growth of coca leaf for the traditional use;

− to collect the scientific evidence about the harm of coca leaf for health before making a decision;

− to refer to the WHO to learn if they still keep their position on coca leaf.


Brussels, 4 November 2010
15799/10 - CORDROGUE 93

Meeting of the Horizontal Working Party on Drugs
on: 12 October 2010

Summary of discussions (link to the original document)

5. Request by Bolivia concerning coca leaf

The Presidency informed the meeting that USA was preparing a “friends of the convention” group to have a wide consultation forum on Bolivia’s request, gave an overview on the issue and recalled that the 31st of January 2011 was the deadline to present a position regarding Bolivia’s request to amend Article 49, §1, c) and §2, e) of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

The Presidency explained that the EU could only express a coordinated position and not a common position, since the EU was not a party to the 1961 Convention, so only the Member States who are the contracting parties of the Convention can notify their individual position to the UN. The Legal Service of the Council also added that although having a coordinated position of the EU was not mandatory, there was a need to coordinate the EU position so as not to express contradictory statements. The Presidency then underlined that a combination of the political, legal and health elements as well as the geo-political issues concerning growing coca leaf could bring a coordinated position of the EU.

The COM and the Presidency also explained that no South American country had so far raised any objections, which was a good sign.

A delegation noted that an update of the WHO 1994 report would be necessary to have sufficient scientific evidence regarding the health danger of chewing coca leaf in order to define its position regarding the Bolivian request. The Presidency agreed that there was a real need to update, but explained that there would certainly be no report before the deadline of the 31st of January 2011 even though any Member State as a contracting party to the Convention could seek for such a new report directly from the UN.

Some delegations stressed that beyond legal or health issues, there was also a major political problem as the legalisation request of Bolivia, if accepted, would create a precedent and jeopardize the 1961 Convention as well as the political credibility of the EU concerning its combat against drug and drug trafficking.


Brussels, 13 December 2010
17286/10 - CORDROGUE 102

Meeting of the Horizontal Working Party on Drugs
on: 15 November 2010

Summary of discussions (link to the original document)

7. Request by Bolivia concerning coca leaf

Regarding the coca leaf issue, the Presidency recalled the roundtable organised by the COM on drug issues in Bolivia, which took place on 13 October 2010, and where Bolivia introduced its new strategy regarding the fight against drugs and UNODC presented its position.

The Presidency explained that the reception held in Vienna on 28 October 2010 to gather all the countries willing to participate at the meeting of the “friends of the Convention”, had been limited to some exchange of information without any concrete results.

The Presidency indicated that it would explain the context as well as the EU’s interpretation of the proceeding at the dialogue with the USA on 17 November 2010. This would raise the political, legal and health elements of the EU position regarding Bolivia’s request.


Brussels, 2 December 2010
17012/10 - CORDROGUE 99 - USA 123

Meeting of the Horizontal Working Party on Drugs and the USA
on: 17 November 2010

Summary of discussions (link to the original document)

5. Status of Request from Bolivia regarding the coca leaf

The Presidency informed about the EU coordinated position vis-à-vis the Bolivian request regarding the coca leaf and enumerated the political and legal objections which lead to a negative answer. The US delegation supported the named objections and both sides expressed the fear that the acceptance of the request would significantly weaken the Convention itself. Nevertheless, the EU and the US stressed on the need to continue the dialogue with Bolivia and agreed that the meeting of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna on 2 December 2010 would be the right place for this. It was emphasized that a group of states had to object to the request and not a single state so that the issue would not go to the plenary session and that the negative decisions should be communicated simultaneously.


Brussels, 19 January 2011
5443/11 - CORDROGUE 9

Meeting of the Horizontal Working Party on Drugs
on: 21 December 2010

Summary of discussions (link to the original document)

7. Request by Bolivia concerning coca leaf

The Presidency reminded that a first note clarifying the procedure and the timing set to respond to the Bolivian request was presented at the HDG meeting of July 2010 (doc. DS 1467/10) and a second note on a coordinated approach aiming to identify technical and practical problems was also issued as set out in document 14506/10 CORDROGUE 82 RESTREINT UE.

The Presidency explained the scenario presented during the meeting held between the USA and various Member States on 2 and 3 December 2010 in Vienna, which will be discussed again at the meeting of 25 January 2011.

The Presidency also indicated that at this stage, discussions were continuing in New York and that pursuing the dialogue would remain essential on the basis of future scientific studies to be carried out by the WHO.


Brussels, 8 February, 2011
6059/11 - CORDROGUE 17

Meeting of the Horizontal Working Party on Drugs
25 January 2010

Summary of discussions (link to the original document)

6. Request by Bolivia concerning coca leaf

The Presidency recalled the discussions held in New York as well as the roundtable organised on 12 January 2011 in Vienna to have an overall view of Member States’ position regarding the Bolivian proposal.

The Presidency reminded that objections were already raised and communicated to the Secretary General of the United Nations by SE and UK before the expiration of the deadline and thus the proposal of amendment submitted by Bolivia was already legally rejected in accordance with Article 47 paragraph 1(b) of the Single Convention.

The rejection of the amendment being acquired, the issue of relations with Bolivia was raised and, in particular, the importance to explain the positions expressed to the Bolivian government. This key role should be played by the Member States’ embassies in Bolivia in order to pursue the dialogue and offer further cooperation in the field of the fight against drugs and drug trafficking. The dialogue with Bolivia could be conducted and promoted through a conference of states organised by ECOSOC and on the basis of the study on chewing coca leaf to be issued in February or March 2011.

In order to avoid political confrontation and to continue the dialogue with Bolivia, it was also proposed to create an informal working group in Vienna which would analyse how the rights of indigenous people could be ensured without undermining the role of narcotics. The role of this working group would be defined along with Bolivia.

Although some delegations did not support the idea of an intergovernmental conference, there was unanimity in the will to pursue the dialogue with Bolivia.


Brussels, 5 May 2011
9527/11 - CORDROGUE 26

Meeting of the Horizontal Working Party on Drugs
5 April 2011

Summary of discussions (link to the original document)

6. Aide-mémoire on the Bolivian proposal to amend Article 49 of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961

The Presidency informed the meeting about Bolivia's intention to withdraw itself from the Single Convention and join it again with a special request regarding the coca leaf. According to Bolivia, this compromise should avoid convening an international conference, amending the Convention and the derogation would only concern Bolivia.

It was stated that Bolivia has indeed the right to leave the Convention as well as to ask for an exemption and one third of the members of the Convention would be required to reject Bolivia's special request. The latter procedure makes it more difficult to obtain an objection since the procedure foreseen in Article 47 (1) (b) of the Single Convention required only one objection from any member of the Convention to reject the amendment. Furthermore, a delegation stressed the risk of creating a precedent allowing similar opting-out and opting-in from international conventions.

EEAS underlined that Bolivia mainly wanted to find a compromise and not change the Convention, and that to get funding from the EU in fighting drugs, countries had to be a party to the Convention. Moreover, EEAS pointed out the fact that the study on coca leaf was to be finalised in June 2011 and that it would contact the New York delegation to check if other similar cases existed.

Since the request for withdrawal is to be expected on 1 July 2011, the Presidency recalled that the issuance of the study in June could constitute a basis on which EU Member States would be able to take a stand. Furthermore, a delegation reminded that since the EU is not part of the Single Convention, establishing a coordinated position remained important.


Brussels, 3 October 2011
13231/11
CORDROGUE 57 / USA 58

Meeting of the Horizontal Working Party on Drugs and the USA
13 July 2011

Summary of discussions (link to the original document)

Follow up on the Bolivian proposal on coca leaf

Asked to provide the US position towards the Bolivian government's intention to re-accede the 1961 Convention with an exemption on coca leaf, the US delegation explained that there was still time to define the final position, but it was a priority for the US to presume the integrity of the 1961 Convention and other international instruments and Bolivia should respect the principles and purposes of the 1961 Convention. According to the speaker, as coca leaf remained a controlled substance, international measures which would diminish this control, would be problematic for the US.

A representative of the EEAS (Europan External Action Service) informed the meeting that the finalisation of the study on coca leaf had been delayed and this might be related to the fact that the Bolivian government was finalising their new policy on coca leaf production. However, the study should be presented in the near future. The US delegation asked the EU to urge the Bolivian government to finalise the study as soon as possible and were informed that this was done by the EU in all the contacts with Bolivian authorities.


Brussels, 27 October 2011
Council of the European Union, 15911/11
CORDROGUE 68

Meeting of the Horizontal Working Party on Drugs
4 October 2011

Summary of discussions (link to the original document)

Responses to the Bolivian withdrawal from the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs

The UK delegation indicated that they had not yet adopted their final position concerning the above mentioned issue and that they were concerned about the consequences of such an action for the production of cocaine in Bolivia and for international law as this could set a dangerous precedent. Some delegations supported this position saying that such a precedent could weaken international conventions and one delegation noted that it would also be a problem if Bolivia would not re-join the convention. Many delegations explained they were still examining how to react. The Presidency informed the meeting that this issue would be discussed in more detail during the November HDG  meeting.

A representative of the EEAS explained that the Bolivian coca leaf study financed through the Instrument for Stability and consisting of two larger and six smaller studies was already completed,  but not yet published and a delay of around three months was expected.


Brussels, 15 November 2011
Council of the European Union, 16890/11

Meeting of the Horizontal Working Party on Drugs
7 November 2011

Summary of discussions  (link to the original document)

11. Responses to the Bolivian withdrawal from the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs

The Presidency reminded the delegations about Bolivia's intention for possible re-accession to the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs but with a reservation and asked delegations if it would be feasible to prepare a coordinated EU position on this subject to be presented at the forthcoming EU-US meeting to be held on 8 November 2011.

Most delegations expressed their concerns about the situation and explained that they were still examining how to react, however, they doubted about a possibility to come up with a coordinated position. It was agreed to request the UN legal service to explain the legal provisions concerning Bolivia's intention.

The representative of the EEAS informed the meeting that the EU was moving towards a broader approach in Bolivia to support their antidrug policy. She pointed out that a recent UNODC report on coca crops in Bolivia indicated a 0,3 percent increase in cultivation and that by the end of the year the UNODC representative might leave Bolivia as it happened in 2009 because of the lack of funds. Therefore she encouraged Member States to examine the opportunity to support the presence of the UNODC in Bolivia.

The delegations were informed that the publication of the coca leaf study had been delayed and that although the EU provided funding for completing the study, it was the task of Bolivian government to publish this study. Some delegations expressed their disapproval with such a situation.

 


 

Brussels, 18 October 2012
Council of the European Union, 14990/12
CORDROGUE 67

Meeting of the Horizontal Working Party on Drugs
3 October 2012

Summary of discussions (link to the original document)

Bolivian re-accession to the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs - current state of discussion in Member States

The delegations discussed the above-mentioned issue with the majority of delegations noting that their official position had not yet been adopted. They expressed worries about creating a precedent if allowing Bolivia to re-accede the Single Convention with a reserve, but also feared the consequences if Bolivia was left out of the Convention. Some delegations informed the meeting that the high level Bolivian delegation had requested to meet with their Ministers, drug specialists and Parliament Members. One delegation also inquired about the consequences for funding drug-related projects in Bolivia, if Bolivia was out of the Single Convention. The meeting was also informed that the study on the Bolivian coca leaf was in its final stage of completion and that by the end of  the year Bolivia was expected to have reports on all eight components of the study.

 


 

Brussels, 19 November 2012
Council of the European Union, 16404/12
CORDROGUE 90

Meeting of the Horizontal Working Party on Drugs
7 November 2012

Summary of discussions (link to the original document)

Bolivian re-accession to the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs

The delegations further discussed the above-mentioned issue and some delegations reported on the meetings held in their capitals with the high level Bolivian delegation, also mentioning that a question of publishing the study on the Bolivian coca leaf had been raised. Some delegations mentioned that having the results of this study would be crucial for taking the decision on Bolivian re-accession to the Single Convention.

In reply to the question if accession to the Single Convention could be a condition to Bolivia's eligibility to receive the EU's development aid, the representative of the Commission informed the delegates that there was no such conditionality foreseen neither in the Country Strategy Paper and National Indicative Paper for Bolivia, nor in the action fiches of anti-drug programmes that are subject to a financing decision by the Commission. The representative of the EEAS informed the meeting about the forthcoming visit of the Bolivian foreign affairs minister to Brussels. Some delegations insisted on raising a question during this meeting on the deadline of publishing the study on the Bolivian coca leaf and the reasons for the delay.

 


Brussels, 20 November 2012
Council of the European Union, 16281/12
CORDROGUE 88

Meeting of the Horizontal Working Party on Drugs and the USA
9 November 2012

Summary of discussions (link to the original document)

Bolivian re-accession to the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs

The Presidency informed the US delegation that the EU Member States had not yet defined their positions, but they were worried about the negative precedent this case would set. The US delegation announced that they were the first ones to have submitted an objection to the Bolivian accession to the Single convention with a reserve. Delegations shared concerns that the results of the Bolivian coca leaf study were not being published.