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Pike, Brigid (2009) EU Drugs Action Plan evaluated. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 29, Spring 2009 , pp. 24-25.

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The EU places great store on evaluation. The European Commission has published guidelines on evaluating both programmes and policies,1 and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) has made a special study of the evaluation of national drugs strategies.2 In December 2008 the final evaluation of the EU Drugs Action Plan 2005-2008 was published.3 This report provides an interesting case study of how to conduct an evaluation.

 Designing the evaluative framework
The objectives of the evaluation of the EU Drugs Action Plan were defined by reference to the plan's underlying purpose, which is to act as a co-ordination instrument. Three evaluative objectives were identified: (1) to establish the extent to which the outputs specified in the plan were delivered, (2) to gauge the outcomes, i.e. the impact of the actions on the drugs situation, and (3) to assess the process, i.e. the value added of the Action Plan as a policy instrument per se. Each objective was supported by two questions which explored different aspects of the objective. Probing the nature of the relationship between actions and their impacts, these questions resulted in comprehensive answers (see table). 

Summary of the evaluative framework applied to, and key findings of the evaluation of, the EU Drugs Action Plan 2005–2008

Objectives
Questions
Answers
To establish to what extent the objectives and actions of the Action Plan have been achieved.
To what extent have the operational objectives and actions in the current EU Action Plan on Drugs been implemented and what are the main outputs? 
The EU Drugs Action Plan is mainly a co-ordination instrument, pulling together the main strands of drug policy. It is a non-binding co-ordination document for member states, which are autonomous in implementing its aims and objectives.
Have the specific priorities in the Strategy and the operational objectives in the Action Plan been adopted by member states?
 
The EU Drugs Strategy and Action Plan are suitably reflected in national policies. The evaluation shows that member states have translated the objectives of the Action Plan into national policy, and/or that these objectives were already reflected in existing documents.
(1) Member states report that the Action Plan reflects the main policy fields at national level. Some national priorities are not covered, mostly owing to differences in the drug situations in member states.
(2) The evaluation shows that the Action Plan supports a process of convergence between member states’ drug policies and helps to achieve policy consistency between countries. 
To understand the relationship between the Action Plan and the actual drug situation.
What are the overall changes in the drug situation in recent years?
Although there has not been a significant reduction in the prevalence of drug use, the use of the most prevalent drugs seems to have stabilised and/or fallen slightly. The use of cocaine is showing an upward trend in some member states.
 
To what extent can these changes be linked to the implementation of the EU Action Plan on Drugs? 
The stabilisation in prevalence levels of most illicit drugs except for cocaine cannot be linked to specific interventions implemented through the Action Plan.
To estimate the added value that the Action Plan offered to drug policy in the EU as a whole.
What is the overall added value of the EU Drugs Action Plan 2005–2008?
Member states consider that the Action Plan has added value at both EU level and for national policy, where the Action Plan functions as a guiding document. 
What key conclusions and lessons can be drawn from this evaluation for the next plan covering the years 2009 – 2012? 

Obtaining the necessary information
To obtain the information needed to answer the evaluative questions, five sources of information were used. Objective information on trends in the drug situation in Europe and the responses to it was collected, and the views of member states regarding the Action Plan were surveyed. Various analyses were undertaken, including a reflection on the structure, logic and clarity of the EU Drugs Strategy (2005-2012) and the related EU Drugs Action Plan (2005-2008), a review of the implementation of the actions and achievement of the objectives, and an assessment of intra-institutional co-ordination and co-operation in the implementation of the Action Plan.

 Ensuring stakeholder buy-in
To ensure a comprehensive evaluation, the Commission set up a Steering Group comprising representatives of the main stakeholder groups - the member states holding the EU presidency between mid-2006 and the end of 2008, the European Parliament, Europol, the EMCDDA, and Eurostat. This group advised on the choice of evaluation methodology and the interpretation of the evaluation outcomes. The Commission also sought input from the Civil Society Forum on Drugs.  In its introductory section, the succeeding EU Drugs Action Plan 209-2012 commented that the evaluation of the 2005-2008 Action Plan was 'the mostensive assessment of EU drug policy to date and shows that the objectives of the present Plan have been partly achieved'.
 
1. Commission of the European Communities (2004) Evaluating EU activities: a practical guide for the Commission services. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.
2. EMCDDA (2004) Evaluation of 'national drugs strategies' in Europe. Selected issue. In Annual report 2004: the state of the drugs problem in the European Union and Norway. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.
3. Commission of the European Communities (2008) Report of the final evaluation of the EU Drugs Action Plan (2005-2008). Commission staff working document. Accompanying document to the Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on an EU Drugs Action Plan 2009-2012. Brussels: European Commission, DG Justice, Freedom and Security.{COM (2008) 567}; {SEC (2008) 2455}; {SEC (2008) 2454}.
Item Type:Article
Issue Title:Issue 29, Spring 2009
Date:2009
Page Range:pp. 24-25
Publisher:Health Research Board
Volume:Issue 29, Spring 2009
EndNote:View
Accession Number:HRB (Available)
Subjects:VA Geographic area > Europe > European Union
MP-MR Policy, planning, economics, work and social services > Policy > Policy on substance use
MP-MR Policy, planning, economics, work and social services > Programme planning, implementation, and evaluation

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