The EU Drugs Monitor faces an expanded mandate as the EU has become a major producer of illicit drugs for national and global use, with links between European and international criminal groups growing stronger.
Europe is changing from a predominantly drug-consuming market to a drug-producing market, according to the latest European Drugs Report from the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).
The report comes as EU institutions prepare to extend the EMCDDA’s mandate from a watchdog to a full-fledged agency.
The Commission proposed the extension in January and the negotiating mandate was adopted by the Council on 9 June. Soon, the European Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) will take charge of the file.
Parliament’s rapporteur, Socialist MEP Isabel Santos, hopes for “increased resources and increased capacity to properly equip the future agency with the right tools,” she told EURACTIV.
“As the drug landscape always seems to be one step ahead, it is critical that the agency is able to have both a strengthened surveillance and analytical capacity system, but also a mechanism faster and more effective response to emerging threats and trends,” Santos added.
The MEP underlined that the European drugs market is constantly changing, increasingly diverse and very dynamic – characteristics confirmed by the EMCDDA report on drugs.
While the Drug Watch Agency has played a crucial role in collecting data on the bloc’s drug markets, more tools are needed “to operate successfully in such a complex environment as we are now experiencing. in Europe”, said the rapporteur.
Despite the intention to transform the EMCDDA into a full-fledged agency, Santos added that it will essentially remain a provider of data to help member states develop informed policies.
More international crimes
High levels of innovation, digitalisation, increased choice and increased production of synthetic drugs have resulted in stronger ties between European and international crime syndicates, according to the EMCDDA report.
“There is increased cooperation between organized crime groups in the EU and Mexican cartels, especially for methamphetamine,” EMCDDA director Alexis Goosdeel told a press conference on the findings of the report, Tuesday 14 June.
EMCDDA evidence shows that some of the dismantled laboratories in EU territory with industrial methamphetamine production capacity used either Mexican cooks or their methamphetamine recipes and production methods.
Goosdeel explained that there is a need for more profiling of drugs circulating in the EU, reiterating the need for an extension of the EMCDDA’s mandate to give them more capacity.
He also added that they had received information from Europol and the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) that Mexican cartels were seeking to expand their control over global drug trafficking.
“The fact that they seem to be more closely associated with certain production units in Europe kind of confirms that,” Goosdeel said, adding that there is also closer cooperation between the EU and Mexico in an attempt to prevent this development.
COVID-19 has changed digital drug consumption habits
In addition to greater international collaboration, changes have also been observed during COVID-19. EURACTIV previously reported that drug use had returned to normal levels in Europe after social distancing restrictions and full lockdowns.
The EMCDDA sees a change in the way medicines are distributed online.
“The report shows that – like all of us – traffickers have increasingly gone online during the pandemic. Buying and selling drugs via social media is now commonplace,” Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson told the press conference.
It has long been known that drugs can be purchased from websites on the dark web, but the change the report finds is that “social media apps and encrypted services appear to be more commonly used to facilitate drug purchases” .
However, there has also been an increase in the use of online platforms to address and manage drug issues during the pandemic.
[Edited by Alice Taylor/Nathalie Weatherald]