Home > EU action plan on drugs 2013–2016 adopted.

Pike, Brigid (2013) EU action plan on drugs 2013–2016 adopted. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 47, Autumn 2013, pp. 14-15.

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On 6–7 June 2013 the European Council adopted the new EU action plan on drugs for 2013–2016.1 Linked to the EU drugs strategy for 2013–2020,2 this action plan is organised around five pillars:

-    Drug demand reduction
-    Supply reduction
-    Co-ordination
-    International co-operation
-    Information, research, monitoring and evaluation
As the principle of ‘subsidiarity’ applies to illicit drug policy, i.e. member states have responsibility for drug policy within their borders, the action plan uses three policy instruments depending on whether there are opportunities for joint actions or cross-border co-operation.
1.     Frameworks for co-ordinated and joint actions
Member states can either work together or co-ordinate their efforts under three pillars – Supply Reduction; Information, Research, Monitoring and Evaluation; and Co-ordination.
The Supply Reduction pillar includes a range of actions designed to enhance law enforcement and judicial co-operation between different member states, based on enhanced intelligence, threat assessments and information-sharing, and on use of mechanisms such as joint operations, joint investigation teams, memorandums of understanding and European arrest warrants.  New emphases in the action plan include:
-    a stronger focus on tackling money laundering, asset confiscation and drug trafficking;
-    strengthening the law relating to new psychoactive substances and drug precursors;
-    adopting and implementing EU regulations relating to the use of cutting agents;
-    developing strategic responses to the emergence of drug-related crime via the internet, and training law enforcement personnel to combat the use of new communication technologies in illicit drug production and trafficking; and
-    providing, where appropriate in accordance with member states’ legal frameworks, alternatives to coercive sanctions for drug using offenders.
The Information, Research, Monitoring and Evaluation pillar lists three objectives, which mirror the main functions of the European Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), which funds a network of Reitox National Focal Points across all 28 member states:
-    research and data collection, including funding research, and ensuring the accuracy, relevance and timeliness of monitoring, reporting and evaluation activities by all member states;
-    maintaining networking and co-operation, and building capacity, with special emphases on improving capacity to detect, assess and respond to new psychoactive substances, strengthening efforts to share forensic science data across member states, and improving the ability to identify, assess and respond to behavioural changes in drug use and epidemic outbreaks; and
-    dissemination of monitoring, research and evaluation results, ensuring all member states co-operate and support the EMCDDA’s work.
Responsibility for co-ordinating and monitoring the implementation of the EU drugs strategy and action plans lies with the holders of the EU presidency and the Horizontal Working Party on Drugs (HDG), a working party of the European Council. Implicit in this arrangement is a stronger role for member states that rotate the EU presidency and have diplomatic representation on the HDG.
The HDG takes on responsibility for promoting and supporting dialogue with both civil society and the scientific community (natural and social science and behavioural research) regarding the development and implementation of drug policy. The EU Civil Society Forum on Drugs will continue to represent civil society at EU level, but the European Alliance on Drugs, formed by the European Commission under the last EU drugs action plan, is not mentioned in the new action plan.3
2.    Political framework for EU external co-operation in drugs field
The International Co-operation pillar proceeds on three diplomatic fronts, requiring policy positions to be based on the priorities and balanced approach set out in the EU drugs strategy:
-    external relations, including initiatives to support alternative development, implement risk and harm reduction initiatives, tackle drug-related organised crime, including drug trafficking, maintain dialogues and declarations with external partners, ensuring the promotion and protection of human rights in the dialogues;
-    UN and other international bodies, including improving the cohesiveness of the EU’s approach and its visibility in UN forums, and strengthening partnerships with UN and other international bodies; and
-    acceding countries, candidate countries and potential members of the EU, supporting their adaptation to and alignment with the EU acquis in the drugs field.
3.    Strategic approach that supports and complements national policies
Regarding demand reduction, the action plan calls on member states to measure, in association with the EMCDDA, the implementation of actions in three broad areas – prevention; treatment and rehabilitation; and co-ordinated, best-practice and quality approaches to drug demand reduction. New initiatives include tackling the misuse of prescribed and ‘over-the-counter’ opioids, and providing recovery and social re/integration services alongside treatment and rehabilitation.
Measuring performance
The action plan includes a list of 15 overarching indicators that will be used to assess the overall effectiveness of the action plan. Fourteen of these indicators are based on data already collected by the EMCDDA. The use of additional indicators will depend on member states providing extra data on topics such as the level and patterns of prescribing of psychoactive medicines, or the level of involvement of civil society in drug policy development and implementation, with particular regard to the involvement of drug users, clients of drug-related services and young people. The action plan emphasises the need to increase the availability and use of evidence-based and scientifically sound indicators. Work is to continue on developing a roadmap to standardise, improve and streamline data collection of key drug supply indicators and getting agreement from all member states on these indicators.


1. Council of the European Union (2013) Draft EU action plan on drugs (2013–2016). 9963/13. Brussels: Council of the European Union. www.drugsandalcohol.ie/20004
2. See Pike B (2013) New EU drugs strategy reflects ‘new thinking’. Drugnet Ireland, (45): 7. www.drugsandalcohol.ie/19683
3. See Pike B (2009) EU sets priorities for drug policy 2009–2012. Drugnet Ireland, (29): 25–26. www.drugsandalcohol.ie/12180
Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, International, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
Substances (not alcohol/tobacco)
Intervention Type
Issue Title
Issue 47, Autumn 2013
October 2013
Page Range
pp. 14-15
Health Research Board
Issue 47, Autumn 2013
Accession Number
HRB (Electronic Only)

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