THE EUROPEAN UNION WANTS TO TALK ABOUT THE URBAN DRUG POLICY
On June 20, 2017, the European Parliament hosted an expert panel titled “Public safety and public health-municipal drug policies in the Member States”. The panel program is available at http://urbandrugpolicies.com/en/expert-panel-brussels-20-june-2017/
The first part of the panel was attended by representatives of civil society: AgnieszkaSieniawska, President of the Polish Drug Policy Network, Marcus Keane representing the European Civil Society Forum on Drugs, NannaGotfredsen, Director of Danish Street Lawyers, and Anna Dovbakh, Director of Eurasian Harm Reduction Network.
Prof. Richard Muscat, Head of the Horizontal Drugs Group of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Ute Stiegel, Chair of the Organized Crime and Drug Policy Unit of the European Commission, and representative of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, DaniloBallotta, spoke in the second part of the panel.
In his preface to the individual speeches, MichałBoni referred to the Warsaw Declaration as a document that should be applied in urban politics. He acknowledged that despite the fact that the EU has its own progressive drug strategy that includes all the necessary evidence-based elements, including harm reduction as a priority and cooperation with civil society and the drug user community, the way the strategy is implemented varies from country to country. Western Europe boasts a very innovative and effective drug policy where harm reduction programs are implemented, such as the exchange of needles and syringes for drug users; drug prevention which educates rather than scares away and finally, drug law that does not penalize the possession of small amounts of drugs intended for their own use, and instead recommends aid solutions – treatment or prevention. This was the starting point for further debate and discussion on how to promote good solutions.
In the first part of the panel AgnieszkaSieniawska presented the Warsaw Declaration, emphasizing the importance of the role of cities in shaping good practices at the local level in the context of executing effective drug policies. The Warsaw Declaration is a tool that can serve as a guide to good urban practices and is a starting point for debate on the minimum standards that should be adopted in urban drug strategies. The history of European cities has often shown, i.e. on the example of Copenhagen, Frankfurt and Lisbon, that changes are usually created through grass-roots initiatives rather than national regulations. This is why dialogue between cities and institutions within the European Union, such as the Committee of the Regions which shapes urban policies for EU member states, is so important.
Marcus Keanetalked aboutthe activities of the European Civil Society Forum on Drugs which he represented and about what the various CSF thematic groups wereworking on. The Forum brings together 45 organizations from Europe and its main role is to involve civil society in policy-making and drug policy at the European Union level. He emphasized that, despite the fact that we often differ in our views, it is worthwhile to look for constructive ways to find compromises and common areas, taking into account the real needs of people affected by the developed solutions. He also talked about the importance of minimum standards that apply to all Member States.
NannaGotfredsen talked about her career path and how she became a lawyer helping drug users in the streets of Copenhagen. The inspiration for working with addicts had come from the marginalization of this group of people who lacked the basic rights to medical care, social care, decent treatment and support in their family situation. Although the Danish law is quite restrictive, the city of Copenhagen, working with the third sector, the police and local community, has worked out its own solutions – particularly in the Vesterbro district, where most people die in the street due to overdose. After the NGO managed to open the first needle and syringe exchange point, the city soon followed its example and opened subsequent ones. Then the city decided to open safe injection rooms.Currently, Copenhagen has the largest number of injection rooms in the world, which over the past year have provided a space for millions of drug injections, including several thousand overdoses, none of which led to death. The Copenhagen example demonstrates how well grassroots initiatives can work and how over the course 20 years the reality can be changed for the better –including a drop in mortality, crime reduction, as well as efficient co-operation with the local community. Even if one is not a fan of Danish methods of action, they may be convinced by the fact that it simply pays off economically and that locking up in prisons only involves unnecessary costs.
Anna Dovbakh described the situation in the east of Europe and the cities that cope with the problem of drug addiction. In Eastern Europe we have seen many positive changes at the local level – even in the most difficult socioeconomic contexts, such as Vilnius. On the other hand, there are countries like Bulgaria, where the prospect is quite different – there is a lack of substitution programs and harm reduction programs, and even if some do appear, there is no continuity of funding at the national and urban level. In the Eastern European countries in the last decade we have seen various movements in drug policy at the regional and national levels that have not always been targeted at improving public health. We have witnessed attempts to reduce the supply of drugs, which has led to the detention of thousands of drug addicts. We have sometimes seen decriminalization on paper, but not in reality, manifested in the imposition of high fines on drug users, including those living on the brink of poverty. We must definitely pay more attention to local regulations and practices, as national policies are being implemented there.
Professor Richard Muscat emphasized that the remarks and recommendations of civil society are taken seriously and areincluded in the process of developing EU strategic documents on drug prevention activities. This is also truefor the currentAction Plan for the years 2017-2020 adopted for the EU drug strategy for 2013-2020. The remarks made by the European Civil Society Forum on Drugs were almost entirely taken into account. Professor Muscat acknowledged that politics and law must be created “from the bottom to the top”, meaning from the bottom-up, through the flow of information and recommendations from cities. He pointed out, however, that from the perspective of decision-makers at the EU level and from his own perspective,they can only influence the-top-to-the-bottom movement, i.e. from the EU level to the national level, and then the partners / parties / cities need to implement the strategies according to the provisions. Strategies at all levels must be consistent.
Ute Stigel announced the adoption of the Action Plan for 2017-2020, where the majority of civil society’ssuggestions have been taken into account, and discussed all the amendments, corrections and improvements, as compared to the previous Action Plan for 2013-2017. She also mentioned the report published by the EMCDDA of 6 June on urban drug policies in EU Member States and stressed that the report generally indicates that the mortality due to drug overdoses in these countries is rising.
DaniloBellota started his presentation by saying that he did not feel like an expert on urban drug strategies, but has been invited to speak as such for the second time, which means that this area is still undeveloped and somewhat overlooked by the EU institutions. He underlined the importance of planning the actions of cities withinthe frame of a 5-year plan, which should be consistent not only with national strategies, but also with EU guidelines. The EMCDDA and other European institutions should explore the urban drug policy spaces for a better understanding of what is happening in the European regions and to understand their diversity and specificity, which however requires cooperation with civil society and local institutions.
In his final speech, MichałBoni announced the plan to senda letter to the president of the Committee of the Regions containing a panel report and a call to join the work on the shaping of urban drug policies in EU Member States. He stressed the importance of creating a network of cities that could provide one another with inspiration and a platform for exchange of good practices. He also invited the decision-makers – HDG, EMCDDA and the European Commission – to jointly speak at a press event about designer drugs and to announce the Action Plan for 2017-2020.
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I have a pleasure to invite you to the event Polish Drug Policy Network is organising in cooperation with Michał Boni MEP and Maltese Presidency of the Council of the European Union on public safety and public health – municipal drug policies in the Member States, which will take place on the 20th of June 2017, 17:00 – 18:30 in the European Parliament in Brussels (Room JAN 6Q1).
The illicit drug use presents an on-going challenge for public safety and public health in the urban context and demands a development of effective and evidence based policies. This expert panel will be an occasion to discuss steps to be taken after the announcement of the Warsaw Declaration in February 2016, defining minimum quality standards in drug demand reduction for urban drug policies. It will also be a chance to learn about the benefits brought by innovative local programs for public health and public safety, as well as an opportunity to establish partnerships between decision makers and civil society representatives.
With best wishes,
Agnieszka Sieniawska, Chairwoman of PDPN
Registration by 13th of June by sending an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Public safety and public health – municipal drug policies in the Member States
Illicit drug use presents an on-going challenge for public safety and public health in the urban context and demands the development of effective and evidence based policies.
The expert panel in the European Parliament organized by Michał Boni MEP and the Polish Drug Policy Network is scheduled for the 20th of June 2017.
The event is a direct continuation of the Urban Drug Policies Conference held in Warsaw in February 2016. The Warsaw Declaration – defining minimum quality standards in drug demand reduction for urban drug policies – was announced as the result of that conference.
It is high time to present Warsaw Declaration and the best urban practices in drug policy to the European Parliament. The European Union is currently reviewing its own strategy in the area of drugs in parallel to the preparations for the upcoming drug policy debates on the UN level and implementation of the UNGASS outcome document. At the same time the Union has now carried out the evaluation of the Action Plan on Drugs 2013-2016 which in turn has paved the way for the work on a new Action Plan for 2017-2020, currently underway in the Council. Europe has always been regarded as a progressive region where health and human rights in the drug policy context have been taken very seriously. While the current EU Drug Strategy seems to have all the necessary components in place– harm reduction as a priority, evidence-based policy-making, cooperation with the civil society, the way the strategy is being implemented varies from Member State to Member State. There is a need for a clear set of guidelines for implementing interventions based on the minimum quality standards in drug demand reduction, as well as coherent data collection on potential benefits of action and public expenditures based on comparable indicators across the EU. .
The expert panel in the European Parliament organized by Michał Boni, MEP and the Polish Drug Policy Network will be attended by decision-makers from the European Parliament, the Organized Crime and Drug Policy Unit of the European Commission’s Directorate General for Migration and Home Affairs, Council’s Horizontal Working Party on Drugs (HDG) members and Committee of Regions delegates, as well as the civil society represented by a wide range of NGOs. Our objective is to open a debate about implementing the principles of the Warsaw Declaration which would help provide minimum quality standards in drug demand reduction for municipal drug strategies. In the context of EU preparations for the 2019 UN high level review, we hope to introduce the local and urban perspective into the discussion. Participants of the event will have a chance to learn about the benefits that innovative local programs bring to public health and public safety. The meeting will also provide a great opportunity for building partnerships between decision makers and civil society representatives.
“Public safety and public health-municipal drug policies in the Member States”
20 of June 2017,17:00-18:30
European Parliament in Brussels(Room JAN 6Q1)
17:00 -17:10 Welcome remarks by Michal Boni, MEP
17:00 -17:30 I panel – the voice of acivil society
Agnieszka Sieniawska, Chairwoman of Polish Drug Policy Network
Marcus Keane, Core Group member of Civil Society Forum on Drugs
Nanna W. Gotfredsen, Executive Director of the Danish Street Lawyers
Anna Dovbakh, Acting Executive Directorof Eurasian Harm Reduction Network
17:30 -17:50 Q&A session
17:50 -18:05 II panel – the voice of decision – makers
Prof Richard Muscat, Chair of the Horizontal Drugs Group, presidency of the Council of the European Union
Ute Stiegel, Acting Head of the Organized Crime and Drug Policy Unit of the European Commission
DaniloBallotta, Coordinator for Institutional Affairs at European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction
18:05 -18:25 Q&A session
18:25 -18:30 Closing remarks by Michal Boni, MEP
Polish Drug Policy Network in cooperation with Michał Boni MEP and Maltese Presidency of the Council of the European Union