The state of the drugs problem in Europe

Cecilia Malmström — EU Commissioner for Home Affairs 

Launch of the annual report 2012 European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA)

20-11-2012 — / — Let me congratulate the EMCDDA on its 17th Annual report on the state of the drugs problem in Europe. It is gratifying when looking back over the years to note how much progress has been made in developing a sound understanding of the European drug phenomenon.

I would like to thank in particular the EMCDDA Director, Wolfgang Götz, and the Chairman of the Management Board, Dr João Goulão, for this useful annual report and, more in general, for the excellent work carried out by the Monitoring Centre.

This new analysis is particularly welcome as it highlights the drug problems we share across the EU and informs the work we are currently undertaking to strengthen Europe’s strategic and operational approach to drug trafficking and use.

The EMCDDA works with the EU Member States and with experts from across Europe and further afield to provide this analysis. It provides us with an up-to-date and scientifically robust overview of the contemporary European drug phenomenon, along with examples of best practice in responding to it.

General picture and trends

The drug situation in Europe remains a major policy challenge. The use of illicit substances continues to undermine public health, inflicting damage not only on individuals, but also on their families and on the communities in which they live.

We see that drug use levels remain high in Europe and that today’s drug market is fast-moving and unpredictable, especially with regard to synthetic drugs.

Mr Götz will be presenting you with a comprehensive overview of the latest trends in Europe’s drug phenomenon in a few moments, but let me give you few headline figures:

Concerning cocaine, around 15.5 million Europeans aged between 15 and 64 have tried it in their lifetime, with around 4 million having used it last year. Cocaine remains a major part of the stimulant drug problem in Europe, even though data show that its popularity and image as ‘high-status drug’ may be declining.

New drugs continue to be reported in the EU at a rate of around one per week. A total of 49 new psychoactive substances were officially notified for the first time in 2011 via the EU early-warning system, and data for 2012 show no signs of decline, with over 50 already detected.

The report confirms that cannabis use among young adults is, in general, stabilising or decreasing, with some 80.5 million Europeans (15-64 years) having tried cannabis in their lifetime and around 23 million of them having used it in the last year.

The report highlights a decline in heroin use in the EU, with fewer people entering specialist drug treatment for heroin problems and a small decrease of heroin-induced deaths. These figures, together with market indicators suggesting that heroin is becoming less available on the streets of Europe, may lead us to think that heroin is playing a less central role in Europe’s drug problems.

Tackling drug supply

Let me briefly focus on the issue of drug supply. Drug trafficking remains one of the most productive trades for organised criminal groups in the EU today.

European drug policy is based on a balanced approach that deals with the demand as well as the supply of illicit drugs. Understanding how the illicit drug market works has been a high priority in the on-going European strategy and action plan on drugs.

A good example of our approach is represented by the work done with heroin. The progress we see today is the result of long-term efforts to reduce both heroin demand and supply.

Vigorous policing along heroin trafficking routes has been important but equally important has been the significant increase in availability of drug treatment that has helped reduce demand for heroin across the EU.

We need to build on this successful approach and extend it to other areas, focusing in particular on the measures to tackle today’s drug market, which is dynamic, innovative and quick to adapt to threats and exploit opportunities.

The new EU drug strategy 2013–2020 that is being negotiated in the Council will set out a comprehensive policy response to these challenges drawing lessons from the current strategy as well as evolution of the drug threat and risks.

The implementation of the Internal Security Strategy, too, precisely aims to fight drug trafficking rings:

  • Before the external border: by enhancing our pre-border intelligence picture through the implementation of EUROSUR, the European border surveillance systems that will improve the identification of small vessels in high seas used for trafficking drugs;
  • At the external border: notably through common risk analysis between customs, police and border guards;
  • Within our borders: by preventing the penetration of the licit economy by drug money, notably through the adoption of the 4th anti-money laundering directive proposal; the implementation of the anti-corruption package, which foresees the review of all MS by Spring next year; or the review of the confiscation of assets legal framework.

Cooperation between the EU agencies covering the field of justice, home affairs and health will be crucial to succeed. I am pleased to see how EU agencies are working together on this issue. And this cooperation will be soon increased: the EMCDDA and Europol are working together on an in-depth strategic analysis of European drug markets — we look forward to sharing our findings with you in January 2013.



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