The new security-focused EU Drugs Agenda proposed by the EU Commission was criticised by civil society and member states. The German EU presidency is now in charge of revising it.
It was revealed at the online annual plenary meeting of the Civil Society Forum on Drugs that Member States did not accept the new EU Drugs Agenda proposed by the EU Commission. The Horizontal Working Party on Drugs (HDG) decided that a new EU strategy will be prepared by the German presidency.
In a previous article we made some critical remarks about the new EU Drugs Agenda presented by the EU Commission. We concluded that this document 1) contains a war on drugs language and posits drug use on par with child abuse and arms trafficking; 2) does not reflect the findings of the evaluation of the previous strategy that show the a need to refocus resources on public health rather than law enforcement; 3) unlike the previous action plan, this does not have measurable indicators and 4) civil society was not involved appropriately in the process.
Later in August the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) sent an open letter to the members of the HDG. This letter called member states to reject the EU Drugs Agenda and prepare a new document that reflects the position of the EU presented at the UN meetings, that is, a shift from the traditional supply reduction focus to a new paradigm based on human rights, development and public health.
The CSFD has also criticised the Agenda in its position paper for its stigmatising language and framework, lack of balanced approach, reduced role for harm reduction, decreased relevance of human rights and several other reasons. This paper was presented at the plenary meeting on 8 October. The Commission defended the Agenda from criticism and emphasised that it was not their intention to deprioritise public health over law enforcement.
CSFD members raised several important questions about their own role in EU policy making, as some shortcomings were revealed during the preparation of the Agenda. One example is that the members of the expert group are not able to see draft documents before they are published, because it is against Commission rules. One of the working groups of the CSFD is now working on quality standards for civil society involvement that will highlight guiding principles and rules on how to make the cooperation between government and civil society more meaningful.
There was an interesting discussion on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on illicit drug markets in Europe. Danilo Ballota (EMCDDA) emphasised that several questions still remain unanswered, such as whether those innovative measures introduced during the lockdown to improve access to life-saving services will be maintained or not. But it is likely that Europe is facing an economic recession that will affect vulnerable groups of drug users the most. This also underlines the need to reallocate resources to public health and social interventions. It is worrying that even though the EU released some new funds to ease the burden of the crisis on the most vulnerable, there is no earmarked drug policy budget in the future plans of the EU Commission. Without labelled budget on drug prevention, treatment and harm reduction, the crisis will take a heavy toll on marginalised communities of people who use drugs.