The European Commission has drawn up proposals for stringent new regulations aimed at combating the growing profusion of illicit drugs by targeting the production and distribution of dual-use chemicals, known as precursors.
Precursors make up the ingredients of illicit drugs, such as heroin and cocaine, in addition to having legitimate applications in the pharmaceutical industry. The European Commission argues that the current 10-year-old system needs major streamlining if it is to combat the profusion and rapidly changing nature of the recreational drugs available on the market, particularly increasingly popular synthetic and ecstasy-type drugs.
“It is important that the EU should have in place the most effective measures possible on the control of drug precursors,” Enterprise Commissioner Erkki Liikanen said. “[The proposed measures] will help reinforce the cooperation between member states and industry, which is so essential.”
Liikanen also stressed the importance of putting in place a “user-friendly” system that would not hinder the work of the legitimate drug industry and reduce red tape as the European Union prepares to embrace 10 new members on its eastern flank.
MEPs have reacted positively to the draft proposals. “I consider this an important proposal in the fight against the illegal trade in precursors,” said Dutch Socialist MEP Dorette Corbey, who sits on the Parliament's environment committee. “By making it a regulation instead of the old directive, a complex and time-consuming implementation process is no longer necessary.”
Corbey stressed the need to ensure that legislation is flexible enough to admit new substances as they appear.
The Commission has forwarded the draft regulations to the Parliament and the Council of Ministers, but a date for first discussions has yet to be set. The new regulations could take anything between six months and several years to be passed.
The Commission is quietly confident of a fairly smooth passage. “We're changing the legal instrument, not so much the spirit of the legislation,” a spokesman said.
This article appeared in the 3 October 2002 issue of European Voice.