The European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies (http://www.encod.org), an umbrella organization of drug reform groups across the European Union, is keeping the pressure on the EU as the supranational body works to elaborate a new, five-year drug strategy. With the new drug strategy set to be agreed upon by member states before year's end, ENCOD this week sent a letter to the EU's Horizontal Drug Group seeking a "concrete dialogue" between the EU and civil society, as represented by ENCOD.
The letter is only the latest step in the European reformers' ongoing battle to win a place at the table for bold new thinking. As the deadline for the new drug strategy loomed, ENCOD managed to get itself invited to a May EU drug strategy conference in Dublin, where its attempts to broaden the debate engendered both out-front hostility from some governments and behind-the-scenes approval from representatives of others (http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/338/dublin.shtml).
Dublin left something of a sour taste in ENCOD's mouth, the letter said. "We were invited to the first summit in order to prepare the discussion on this new strategy, which took place on 10 and 11 May 2004 in Dublin. Our representative was allowed to speak for 6 minutes during a plenary panel discussion in the morning of the first day," ENCOD noted. "However, the response he received did leave serious doubts about the willingness of EU authorities to engage in a true process of dialogue and participation of civil society in the development of a new strategy on drugs."
But ENCOD is continuing to fight for a place at the table. Writing that its 83 member organizations represented "millions of Europeans: drug users as well as non-users, grassroots activists, researchers, health practitioners, officials, parents, development workers, etc.," the umbrella group argued that it could make a real contribution to the debate.
ENCOD encouraged the EU to adopt two proposals to deepen the discussion. The first calls on the chair of the Horizontal Drug Group "to invoke a concrete moment of dialogue between now and January 2005" to "facilitate a sincere input of civil society organizations to the debate on the essential guidelines for the future EU Drug Strategy, as well as on the role that civil society can play in the implementation of this strategy."
The second called for money to make the dialogue a permanent feature of European drug strategy discussions. It urges the European Parliament "to speedily adopt a particular budget line that is addressed to the facilitation of a constant dialogue process between EU policymakers and civil society representatives on the drug issue."
In an e-mail to member groups, ENCOD's Joep Oomen said that no reply has yet been received, but he will let people know if and when it is.
Read about European Union drug strategy at http://europa.eu.int/comm/justice_home/fsj/drugs/fsj_drugs_intro_en.htm online.