Call for EU co-operation to fight drug crime

 

EUROPE NOW has more than 12 million cocaine users, 1.5 million heroin users and 9.5 million ecstasy users, a conference on the EU's drugs strategy heard at the weekend.

Fianna Fáil MEP Eoin Ryan, a former junior minister with responsibility for the national drugs strategy, told the event that fighting drug crime means sharing intelligence to track criminals across borders.

"We need to increase our knowledge of all aspects of drug use through more and better co-ordinated research and data, including information on drug related crime and how international drug cartels operate. But to achieve these goals, international co-operation is urgently needed," Mr Ryan said.

"We now live in an internal market of 27 EU member states. No one European country can defeat the international drug barons on their own."

Mr Ryan said the EU is also the largest financial contributor of aid to Afghanistan in an effort to reduce heroin production, "albeit with limited success to date".

A total of 90 per cent of all heroin sold on the streets of Ireland come directly from the poppy fields of Afghanistan, he added.

"The European Union is to increase the number of information programmes that it is running in Europe to highlight the dangers of illegal drug abuse. Vulnerable groups in our society will be particularly targeted."

"A European Citizens Alliance on Drugs contains principles and commitments to guide people as to how they should deal with drug related issues as they arise within their environment."

The conference entitled How the EU Action Plan for Drugs 2009-2012 can benefit the people of Dublin also heard from Minister of State for Drugs Strategy John Curran, Lord Mayor of Dublin Eibhlin Byrne, Sebastian Saville, an advisor to the European Parliament on EU drug policy issues, and crime journalist Paul Williams.

Mr Curran said the Government's own drug strategy included focusing on reducing the demand for drugs and the supply of drugs. It also focused on treatment, including harm reduction, and on prison-based measures and rehabilitation measures, he said.

He said he would be organising a working group on drugs later this month.

Sebastian Saville, an adviser to the International Drug Policy Consortium, said drugs strategy should help policy makers to reach "informed decisions" based on the best available evidence on drugs.

He said the focus in the drugs debate was sometimes exclusively on numbers rather than on the harm done.

Would we rather have a million people who smoke cannabis or 50,000 chaotic crack users?

Mr Saville said drug seizures marked only a small percentage of all the drugs reaching the market and it had to be considered whether the actions of policy makers were proportional to the result. Future policy had to be based on "sound evidence" but the issue was complicated.

Speakers at the conference expressed concern that the EU strategy focused on drugs, without any emphasis on the harm done by alcohol.

Prof Joe Barry, public health consultant and former president of the Irish Medical Organisation said: "There seems to be a reluctance in Ireland to link drugs and alcohol in public policy terms. If we don't have an alcohol strategy, our drugs strategy won't be as effective."

Lord Mayor of Dublin Councillor Eibhlin Byrne said those who used drugs and those who were pushing drugs and "causing havoc in our communities" needed to be dealt with in different ways.