By bringing enormous profits to its traders, drugs have become one of the most lucrative goods for illicit deals. Problems associated with illicit drugs affect public health, social cohesion and political stability of the countries concerned. Addressing them directly contributes to the achievement of the Millenium Development Goals (MDG) include the eradication of poverty and the improvement of health.
In order to take effective measures against drugs, the EU has accepted give principles of international drug policy adopted at the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS) in 1998: shared responsibility, emphasis on multilateralism, balanced approach, development mainstreaming and respect for human rights. A new UNGASS is foreseen in 2016.
Moreover, the EU has also elaborated two EU Drugs Strategy 2005-2012 and 2013-2020 , which includes the chapter on international cooperation, addressing the need of assistance to third countries and application of the balanced approach in reducing the supply and demand for drugs. The two EU Drugs Action Plan 2009-2012 and 2013-2016 go further by providing instruments to address old and emerging trafficking routes such as West Africa, through a variety of projects, promotion of regional and intra-regional cooperation and intensification of the financial support.
While EU efforts against drugs do not make broad policy distinctions between so-called soft and hard drugs or between natural and synthetic drugs, each drug poses different challenges. The novelty, changing nature and increasing use of synthetic drugs, has led to adoption of the Joint Action on Synthetic Drugs which was established in 1997. It implies a close co-operation between the Commission and the two drug agencies established by the EU, Lisbon’s Monitoring Centre and Europol.
As a strategic guide to establish priorities in its international actions in the fight against drugs, the EU has begun to adopt the notion of ‘drug routes’. This is particularly the case as regards both cocaine and heroine as it is easier to establish ‘routes’ for these than for synthetic drugs and cannabis. The routes define, in the form of a number of paths, the movement from cultivation to entry points to the European market and include both the producing and transit countries for these drugs. The objective of defining these routes is to identify more easily the needs for coherence, completeness and complementarily in the EU fight against drugs.