Under the Luxembourg Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the National Drug Coordinators from the 28 Member States met in Luxembourg on 28 and 29 September 2015. This meeting is indeed a unique opportunity for the coordinators to exchange views on current issues at both national and international level and in relation to the EU Drugs Strategy and its associated action plans.
The forum was opened on Monday 28 September by Minister for Health, Lydia Mutsch, and chaired by Luxembourg's National Drug Coordinator, Dr Alain Origer.
Drug prevention in all its forms
Under the heading "Drug prevention: a global concept with converging objectives", the forum is calling for the diversification of efforts to combat drug use which continually poses new challenges. It is also an opportunity for Member States to exchange views, in so far as national measures on drugs and addiction have unique characteristics, while also having some elements in common.
The European Union has always based its Drugs Strategy on scientific data and offers a balanced approach which calls for a well thought-out mix of measures which seek to reduce supply and demand, in addition to any measures which have been proven to be effective in targeting different population groups.
According to Lydia Mutsch, that approach requires coordination: "I believe that all potential measures and action plans can reach their full potential only if they are part of a coordinated approach where the combination of all our efforts is greater than the sum of well thought-out but stand-alone measures".
The Minister for Health also referred to more sensitive projects such as medically supervised drug consumption rooms and the testing of psychoactive substances in recreational settings. The Minister believes that such measures are only possible and, moreover, effective, if from the outset, together with the implementation of an appropriate regulatory framework, there is agreement among health, law enforcement and judicial authorities, as well as national and local authorities.
As stated by Alain Origer, Luxembourg's National Drug Coordinator, "it should be borne in mind that, in terms of health and public security, drug use and its consequences are not normally in line with our action plans. It is therefore imperative that our action plans are continually challenged, adjusted and complemented to counter new substances appearing on the psychoactive substances market and consumption patters in a dynamic, changing society".
Putting the individual at the heart of the agenda
In the framework of their meeting, the Drug Coordinators of the 28 Member States visited the Abrigado Centre, a day- and night-time facility with a drugs consumption room for users of illegal substances run by the Comité national de défense sociale CNDS [Committee for Social Defence]. Indeed, "Fixerstuff" may serve as a model for the establishment of similar facilities in other Member States.
According to the Drug Coordinator: "When trying to reduce drug use amongst the general population or the negative consequences of abusing psychoactive substances amongst different targeted population groups, in reality we are pursuing a single objective, that is to say: "preventing damage caused by drug use and its consequences. The only variable in this "Drug Prevention Equation" is at what point we can or should intervene".
In that regard, the current EU Drugs Strategy and its associated action plans have designed, on the one hand, the concept of drug demand reduction as a series of measures of equal importance and with complementary effects and, on the other, the measures seek to improve the availability and effectiveness of prevention measures.
"It is probably unrealistic to think that we can prevent some of our youngsters and even those who are not so young, from experimenting with psychoactive substances and from using or abusing them", stated Alain Origer. "What we can do, however, is to take action, where possible, at all levels and at every point in this dynamic relationship which links human beings to mind-altering substances that are used to find individual happiness, and deal with the addictive behaviour which may ensue".
The various action plans, projects, ideas and programmes which have been developed play a different role in preventive intervention but they all share the common objective of putting the prevention of potential damage caused by drug use, the individual and health at the heart of the agenda.
Priorities of the Luxembourg Presidency on drugs
Under the Luxembourg Presidency, Luxembourg is also chairing the "Horizontal Drugs Group" of the Council of the European Union.
The priorities include an agreement of the 28 Member States on the minimum standards of the treatment of drug addicts, which covers all treatment options in a variety of different environments (for example in prison). The agreement constitutes real progress, although there are still significant differences of opinion between Member States.
A second issue given priority by the Presidency is the abuse of prescription psychoactive substances. It is a phenomenon which is occurring at an alarming rate, and which must be addressed by Europe in order to increase public awareness with regard to this growing problem.
Another very complex issue to be addressed by the Luxembourg Presidency concerns the setting up of a more effective European mechanism to detect and regulate synthetic substances in order to counteract the new wave of synthetic drugs flooding the market. The Presidency - which has already made some inroads - is currently finalising a draft directive which covers prevention and regulation, as well as focusing on public health.
Lastly, the Luxembourg Presidency is preparing for the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the global drug problem which will be held in April 2016. It will be a large-scale international event and a significant challenge in respect of which the Presidency will clearly outline the position and beliefs of the EU.
Press release from the Ministry of Health