Europe: European Parliament Committee Calls for Pilot Project on Medicinal Opium in Afghanistan

The European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee last week called on the European Union council of ministers to prepare a plan for the Afghan government that would include a possible pilot project to turn part of that country's illicit opium poppy crop into legal opium-based medicines. The call echoes a proposal first made by the European drugs and development think tank Senlis Council in 2005.

With some 30,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan, dealing with the Afghan opium situation is a high priority for European states. According to the United Nations, Afghanistan now produces 93% of the world's opium, and production is at record levels this year. Some of the profits from the opium trade are widely believed to end up in the hands of the Taliban, which the NATO troops, along with US and Afghan troops, are trying to defeat.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/marco-cappato-merida.jpg
Marco Cappato at DRCNet's 2003 conference in Mexico
In a report drafted by Italian Member of the European Parliament Marco Cappato and adopted by the committee on a 33-8 vote with 23 abstentions on September 12, the committee noted that "insurgents, warlords, the Taliban and terrorist groups are obtaining their major source of funding through trade in illicit narcotics," thereby jeopardizing the political stability and economic development of Afghanistan.

The committee called on the Council to examine "the possibility of pilot projects for small-scale conversion of parts of the current illicit poppy cultivation into fields for the production of legal opium-based analgesics." The committee also called for rural development measures and for "carefully and selectively engaging in manual eradication" of opium poppies.

Finally, the committee report called for the Council to submit to the Afghan government a "comprehensive plan and strategy aimed at controlling drug production in Afghanistan", by "tackling corruption at the highest levels of the Afghan administration," especially the Ministry of the Interior.

Such proposals are unlikely to sit well with Washington, which has rejected any opium-into-medicine scheme as unworkable and which is ratcheting up the pressure for aerial eradication by arguing that manual eradication has not been successful.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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