A strategic approach to drug policy in the European Union

The EU Drugs Strategy 2005–12, adopted by the European Council in December 2004, takes into account the results of the final evaluation of progress made during the previous period (2000–04). It aims to add value to the national strategies while respecting the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality set out in the treaties. It sets out two general goals for the EU with regard to drugs:

These two goals cover the six priorities identified in the 2000–04 EU strategy on drugs. The new strategy reiterates the integrated, multidisciplinary and balanced approach of combining measures to reduce both demand and supply. It concentrates on these two policy areas and on two cross-cutting themes – ‘international cooperation’ and ‘information, research and evaluation’ – and on ‘co-ordination’.

In February 2005, the European Commission presented the European Parliament and the European Council with a Communication on an EU drugs action plan for the period 2005–08. The EMCDDA and Europol were consulted in the drafting of this action plan. The Commission also consulted civil society. The action plan, which takes account of the results of the evaluation of the previous plan, is designed in such a way that, for each action, the actors involved are clearly identified and assessment tools, indicators and dates for achievement are specified. This should facilitate follow-up monitoring of the actions as well as providing more effective guidance regarding the implementation of the plan. The Commission will carry out annual progress reviews of the action plan, as well as an impact assessment, before proposing a plan for 2009–12.

Following the lead of the EU, national drugs strategies have been adopted in most Member States. Of the 29 countries considered in this report, 26 operate their national drug policy according to a national plan, strategy or similar document. As far as the rest of the countries are concerned, in Italy the national plan was approved by the National Committee for the Co-ordination of Anti-drug Activities in March 2003 and is under consideration by regions and autonomous provinces; Malta and Austria indicated that procedures for drafting and adopting a national drugs strategy were under way at the time of writing (1).

New national drug strategies have been adopted in seven EU countries (see Table 1). The principle that drug policies should be global and multidisciplinary seems to be accepted in all the national drugs strategies of Member States, in accordance with the EU approach on drugs. However, there can be fundamental differences in the content of different countries’ national strategies, for example in the implementation of interventions, which may vary despite use of the same terminology; in the role of evaluation in the strategies, which can range from important to marginal; and even in the adoption or otherwise of important policy approaches such as harm reduction. Indeed, among the 26 policy or strategy documents examined (2), harm reduction appears to be the issue over which there is most difference of opinion: it features prominently in 12, is included among the discussion of other subjects in nine, and is not mentioned in five.

Table 1: New national drug strategies

(1) For further information and definitions, see the EMCDDA website.

(2) No information on this subject is available for Malta, Slovakia and Turkey.