Select Committee on European Scrutiny Sixth Report





Commission Communication on the mid-term evaluation of the EU action plan on drugs (2000-2004).

Legal base:
Document originated:4 November 2002
Deposited in Parliament:12 November 2002
Department:Home Office
Basis of consideration:EM of 29 November 2002
Previous Committee Report:None; but see (22517) 10207/01:HC 152-ii (2001-02), paragraph 4 (17 October 2001)
Discussed in Council:28/29 November 2002
Committee's assessment:Politically important
Committee's decision:Cleared


  12.1  The EU Action Plan on Drugs 2000-2004 is a comprehensive document which sets out measures to counteract both the demand and the supply of drugs within the EU. It is based on the EU Drugs Strategy agreed in December 1999 at the Helsinki European Council. The plan requires the Commission to organise a mid-term evaluation of the Strategy on the basis of the Action Plan and report to the Council and the European Parliament by the end of 2002. A final evaluation of the extent to which achievement of the Action Plan met the objectives of the Drugs Strategy and an assessment of the impact on the drug situation is required at the end of 2004.

  12.2  In October 2001, we considered a Commission Communication which set out a methodology for reviewing the implementation of the Action Plan. Since we considered that the time was right for a debate on the EU drugs situation, we recommended the document for debate in European Standing Committee B. The debate took place a year later, on 17 October 2002.

  12.3  The November Justice and Home Affairs Council approved a note to the European Council about the way that the Strategy and the Plan should be implemented during the remaining two years of their term, in the light of the mid-term evaluation.

The mid-term evaluation

  12.4  The aim of the mid-term evaluation is to assess the level of achievement to date of the activities set out in the Action Plan. It is not concerned with an assessment of drugs policies of individual Member States.

  12.5  To conduct the review, the Commission has followed the model put forward in its earlier Communication. A follow-up table details progress against the Plan made by the Commission itself, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and Europol. In addition, use has been made of Member States' responses to a questionnaire on progress at national level, of peer evaluations and of relevant EU-level initiatives.

  12.6  The Communication lists achievements at both national and EU level, as well as highlighting areas at both levels where further progress is needed. The findings are presented under the five main headings of the Plan: co-ordination; evaluation; demand reduction and prevention of drug use; prevention of drug-related crime; enlargement and international co-operation.

  12.7  Under its conclusions and proposals, the Communication begins by stating that considerable progress has been made in implementing the Action Plan. The Strategy and Plan have been used as central reference points and many Member States have developed national action plans in line with them. However, it also emphasises that much remains to be done, identifying in particular the need to tackle synthetic drugs, the value of research in further developing drug policy evaluation, the need to co-operate closely with the candidate countries on the drugs elements of the acquis, and the importance of co-ordinated action in respect of the main producing and transit countries.

  12.8  The Communication makes a number of recommendations. The two most significant are the prioritisation of specific activities (underpinned by deadlines where appropriate and a process to monitor progress) and the establishment of a steering group to provide guidance and continuity in monitoring implementation and overseeing the final evaluation of the Plan.

The Government's view

  12.9  The Government has made no secret of its view that, although the Action Plan has provided a useful guide for Member States without strategies in place and for candidate countries, it lacks focus and does not provide a means of identifying whether EU-level activities add value to national effort.

  12.10  In his Explanatory Memorandum, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office (Mr Bob Ainsworth) says:

"The UK successfully influenced the development of the EU Action Plan. The priority now is to focus on narrowing down and prioritising those tasks to be taken forward at European level that specifically add value to what is being done nationally. The Government therefore fully supports the conclusions put forward in the Commission's review.

"The Home Secretary intervened at the informal JHA Council in September to highlight the need to utilise the review of the Action Plan to drive the EU Drugs Strategy forward. The UK will be seeking strong conclusions language from the next European Council, in Copenhagen in December, in order to give impetus to this work. We expect any revisions to the Action Plan to achieve tangible results. A more clearly prioritised Action Plan should be agreed by April [2003].

"Although the UK supports the Commission's highlighting of the issue of synthetic drugs as a key priority, we do not believe that this will, or is intended to, undermine the need for strong continued focus on action against heroin and cocaine."


  12.11  Although the conclusions of the Copenhagen European Council do not refer to the Drugs Action Plan, there appears to be sufficient impetus behind the recommendations in the mid-term evaluation for a more clearly prioritised Action Plan to be agreed.

  12.12  The final evaluation, in which the impact of the Strategy and Plan on the EU drugs situation is assessed, will of course be the true test of the significance of this initiative. However, the mid-term evaluation is useful, both as an outline of progress to date, and because it provides the opportunity of focussing future work. We are pleased to learn that the Government strongly supports the recommendations and will be pressing for their implementation.

  12.13  We clear the document.

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