In the final budget measure it passed last year, the European Parliament approved an amendment allocating $1.3 million to support the dialogue process with civil society on drug policy. The move comes as the European Union prepares to review its continent-wide stance on drug policy in 2008.
The measure, which was proposed by groups like the European NGO Coalition for a Just and Effective Drug Policies, was defeated in September, but supporters managed to get another vote for it last month. The European Commission must now approve a final document on which the dialogue will be based. That is set for April, and if the existing schedule holds, a call for proposals to participate in the dialogue will go out in September.
"This means that we have succeeded in creating a separate budget for the dialogue process that the European Commission is planning to start this year," said ENCOD coordinator Joep Oomen. "We will have a clear view on how much money they have for this dialogue, and by consequence, we have a better check on how they will divide it."
While ENCOD's participation in the dialogue process is not guaranteed, it is likely given the group's key role in opening the European Union drug policy discussion to both civil society and the new ideas emanating from it. "One third of all participants in the January 2006 conference in Brussels were ENCOD members," Oomen told Drug War Chronicle. "Our response to their call for comments was one of the most extensive for sure, so it will be very difficult to deny us any access. We are very well known in the European Parliament as a civil society network around drug policy."
But Oomen maintained a healthy skepticism about the EU's willingness to engage in a true dialogue with opponents of the global drug prohibition regime. "In September, they will organize a call for proposals, and, of course, there are many ways to filter out candidates for participation."
ENCOD is supporting the European Parliament's 2004 set of recommendations for an emphasis on harm reduction instead of prohibitionism known as the Catania Report. While those recommendations represent the sentiment of the European Parliament, whether the governments that make up the European Union will accept it remains to be seen.