Trends and developments presented to LIBE commmitte on the 24th of september by the Director of the EMCCDDA, Wolfgang Götz.The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) raises the attention on the emergence of both new synthetic opioids and hallucinogenic substances which are so powerful that it takes tiny quantities to produce many doses. The fact is that a part of these substances are not even illegal, since they are too new and legislators do not even know them. This challenge requires a quick answer and new funds, otherwise we lose the battle form the start.
The picture emerged from the presentation of the Director of EMCDDA is that of a reduced consumption of heroin but an increase in consumption of new psychoactive substances which were reported to the EU Early Warning System. In 2013 81 new substances were notified, leading to 350 the number of substances monitored. This year 72 new substances were reported and this poses a great pressure on the EU Early Warning System.
The new drugs (new psychoactive substances) can be synthetic or naturally occurring substances that are not controlled under international law, and which have the same effects as controlled drugs. Some of these chemicals are imported from suppliers in China or India and then packaged and sold as ‘legal highs’ in Europe.
In 2013 the EMCDDA was very active. Risk assessments were carried out on two substances in 2013, and on other four by April 2014. The result was that these substances often lead to severe toxicity and also death.
Cannabis is still polarizing the public opinion in Europe, thanks also to the regulatory changes in parts of the United States and Latin America with regard to the ways cannabis is available and controlled. In Europe its consumption is steady, even declining among young people but the situation is not homogeneous among Member States. Still, it represents an important revenue for organized crime groups.
The general European market for illegal drugs is stable: cocaine is most used in southern and western countries and amphetamine are prevalent in northern and eastern countries. Last year Europol noted the dismantling in Belgium of the two largest drug production sites ever found within the European Union, which were capable of rapidly producing large volumes of MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine). This is a good sign and EMCDDA is closely working with Europol in the fight against these networks.
Mr. Götz also pointed out the important role that internet plays in the drug market because it links manufacturers, suppliers and retailers. Website-hosting and payment processing services are usually based in different countries. There is a growing use of “dark-nets” for the sale of drugs to dealers and consumers and this represents a huge challenge. In 2013 EMCDDA managed to identify 651 websites which were selling “legal highs” to Europeans.
EMCDDA is cooperating with Europol in order to exchange information and provide joint analysis. With regard to this, a first report on the drug markets in Europe was published. They also cooperate with Cepol by providing them training on drug traffic and with many other partners, such as applicant countries to EU and third countries in general. In response to a question of Josef
Weidenholzer, Mr. Götz outlined that they also cooperate with Iran and that this country has very good researchers but cooperation on the law enforcement side is more difficult.
The drug networks do not have borders and this is an issue which concerns every country in the world, therefore there is the necessity to cooperate with everyone who is active in the fight of drug consumption and drug traffic.
In the end, the President of EMCDDA declared that the Centre needs more funds but the trend is that of cutting of funds available for it. In 2014 they experienced a 5% cut of the budget compared to the previous year. He outlined that he is aware of the economic crisis but we deal with organized crime networks which are seeing their profits growing and Europe cannot afford to reduce its efforts in fighting these criminals.
The presentation was followed by the intervention of Michał Boni who raised the problem of standardization of all sources of information, since data coming from different countries have different qualities. He also added that the Centre has to cooperate with agencies of European Commission, such as Health Agency in order to have a faster answer to all these challenges. Mr. Götz answered that there is no problem of communication with the Commission and that they hold 20 meetings per year with regard to methodology and standards and we can say that “now we speak a common language, the best you can find in the world”
Other issues were raised by different member of the Committee, such as the drug legalization and also the need for wide campaigns against drug consumption. Mr. Götz replied that legalization is not being discussed in any of the Member States now but there are some debates at the level of civil society. With regard to wide campaigns, he was very skeptical because there is no evidence that these campaigns actually work. Instead of that, he proposed targeted campaigns promoted in certain areas and within certain groups which are known to be at higher risk with regard to drug consumption.
In the end there was general agreement on the fact that the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction carries out a very important task and this should not be underestimated because what is at stake here, is the health of European citizens. For this reason the problem of funding is considered a main issue but there are some positive signs for 2015, also thanks to the work of LIBE Committee.
(Ana Daniela Sanda)
To know more:
European Drug Report 2014: Trends and developments published in May2014 by EMCDDA