Illicit drugs continue to provide enormous profits to traffickers and organised criminal groups. Problems associated with illicit drugs affect public health, social cohesion and political stability of the countries concerned. They also represent a significant obstacle to poverty eradication and global development.
In order to take effective measures against drugs, the EU has accepted five principles of international drug policy adopted at the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS) in 1998: shared responsibility, emphasis on multilateralism, a balanced approach, development mainstreaming and respect for human rights.
Moreover, the EU has developed its own strategies, including the latest EU Drugs Strategy 2013-2020 , which includes international cooperation, assistance to non-EU countries and application of a balanced, evidence-based approach to reducing the supply and demand for drugs. The EU Action Plan on Drugs 2013-2016 goes further still, providing instruments to address old and emerging trafficking routes through a variety of projects, promoting regional and intra-regional cooperation and intensifying 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, led to the adoption of a Joint Action on Synthetic Drugs in 1997. It implies close cooperation between the Commission and two EU agencies: the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction and Europol.
Drug use and trafficking patterns have become more complex over the last years. New psychoactive substances are multiplying – they try to circumvent current legislation by using chemicals that are not (yet) banned, often to imitate the effects of traditional illicit drugs. Drug routes from producer to consumer countries have developed many branches that adapt quickly to changing consumption patterns, law enforcement methods or political instability along the 'route'.
International cooperation struggles to keep pace with developments in the increasingly globalised world of drugs.
The EU supports international cooperation efforts, inter alia through its technical assistance and political dialogue with non-EU countries, as well as international/regional organisations.