The goal of this EU Action Plan is to enhance action against drug use and trafficking, and it builds on the findings of the evaluation of the EU Drugs Study for 2013-2020 and the Action Plan for the time period 2013-2020. The new Action Plan introduced today provides a more powerful response to the newly-emerging health and security challenges in the area of illegal drug use and trafficking.
Core policy areas and cross-cutting themes of the overall EU Drugs Strategy are maintained or updated. The new Action Plan, however, identifies new priority areas for action, appropriate to the current drug use and trafficking situation, including the use of new psychoactive substances.
Another new priority of the new Action Plan is the use of new communication technologies aiming at preventing drug abuse and helping in gathering evidence on potential connections between drug trafficking and financing terrorist groups, organized crime, migrant smuggling or trafficking of human beings.
Dimitris Avramopoulos, the Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs, and Citizenship, has stated that “in a constantly evolving drugs market, reducing drugs use and demand requires an adequate and effective response through coordinated actions at both EU and Member States level. This is precisely what today’s Action Plan does, building on our achievements so far and clearly outlining the actions and objectives in order to tackle the new health and security challenges for the future.”
The main points of the new Action Plan
The new Action Plan for 2017-2020 first of all proposes drug demand reduction, aiming to increase the use of ICT for prevention purposes, as well as encouraging measures to better address the needs of older drug users and vulnerable communities.
The second major action is drug supply reduction, which calls for a rapid adoption and implementation of the new legislative package on new psychoactive substances which was proposed by the Commission in August 2016. It also entails alternative sanctions for drug-using offenders.
The third considerable part of the new Action Plan is coordination, suggesting more steps for coherence and coordination between the Council’s working groups to guarantee agreement between demand and supply reduction actions.
The fourth point revolves around international cooperation and sets out to achieve an improved capacity of EU delegations as they are necessary to engage on drug-related issues and networks on a regional level. The EU needs to explore and discover ways of engaging with other countries in the case of drug-related issues arising.
The fifth and last point of the new Action Plan is research and information, which calls for reinforced efforts in the area of research, with the goals of identifying potential connections of drug trafficking with other organized crime activities, such as terrorist financing, migrant smuggling and trafficking of humans. It also focuses on analyzing current cannabis policy models and their impact.
The new Action Plan will be sent to the European Parliament and the Council for discussion and final approval.
Drugs in the EU
In the EU, approximately 88 million, or in other words, almost one quarter of the entire adult population, are thought to have tried illicit drugs during their life. More than 17 million people have tried cocaine and 12 million have tried amphetamines.
1.3 million adults in the EU are high-risk opioid users. An estimated €24 billion is spent every year on illegal drugs by EU citizens, resulting in the drug market being one of the most dynamic and lucrative markets.
According to Europol’s 2017 Serious Organized Crime Threat Assessment, over a third of the EU’s active criminal groups are involved in the production, trafficking and distribution of various types of drugs.
In recent years, new psychoactive substances (NPSs) have emerged and become increasingly available on the market, posing heightened health risks. The Internet can potentially become a source of supply for NPSs, and Internet-facilitated drugs have greatly impacted the way drugs are trafficked.