Effort to promote European regional co-ordination of action against drug addiction


Proposal of the President of the French Republic
Developments in response to the President's proposal
Results of the Rome conference


Author: Henri NARGEOLET , Charles VAILLE
Pages: 1 to 7
Creation Date: 1973/01/01

Effort to promote European regional co-ordination of action against drug addiction

Charles VAILLE **


During its special session, from 28 September to 2 October 1970, the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs heard Dr. Bernard, the representative of the Director-General of WHO, enunciate six main principles in the prevention of drug addiction:

" Firstly, the measures to be taken at all levels against drug abuse constitute elements of a single interdependent system. Close co-operation among all the professions and agencies working in the field is therefore essential at both the national and the international level.

" Secondly, any realistic and well-balanced programme in a particular country should take into account the nature of the drug or drugs involved; the socio-cultural environment and the influences which have a bearing on individual and group behaviour, in particular among the young.

" Thirdly, a regional approach is desirable. Where a number of countries in the same region have comparable socio-economic conditions and a similar scale of cultural values, it is appropriate to envisage similar solutions.

" Fourthly, a large-scale programme should only be undertaken on the basis of certain knowledge, or at least of working hypotheses that have been widely accepted by experts.

" Fifthly, in the absence of such knowledge or working hypotheses, action should nevertheless be taken by fixing immediate and intermediate objectives for therapeutic and preventive efforts, objectives that might fall short of the ideal in certain circumstances.

" Sixthly, any preventive treatment and rehabilitation programme should as far as possible be integrated in a comprehensive plan of public health promotion and social and economic development."

A study on the extent of this social scourge in Europe [ [1]] agreed with Esbjornson in stressing the dangerous consequences of the heterogeneous attitudes adopted by the authorities of different countries in the same region with regard to the organization of anti-drug action.

The President of the French Republic, who is particularly concerned about social problems affecting youth felt the need to try and give a new impetus to action against drug addiction.

* Chief, Central Service of Pharmacies and Medicine, Ministry of Public Health and Population.

** Inspector General of Social Affairs, Ministry of Public Health and Population, Paris.

In his view, such action should be situated at the regional level along the lines indicated by the WHO representative and the above-mentioned Swedish author.

As we shall see, the various European countries contacted at the onset supported the general idea of practical co-operation in this field.

Proposal of the President of the French Republic

So as not to misconstrue the President's proposal, the statement made at Geneva by one of the authors of this paper during the twenty-fourth session (September to October 1971) of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs is reproduced below in extenso:

Mr. Pompidou, President of the French Republic, has instructed our delegation to inform the members of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs of the purport of his message of 6 August 1971 to the Heads of Government of the countries of the European Economic Community and to the British Prime Minister.

1. The recent spread of drug addiction to the various European countries now makes it imperative for these countries to face up to this new social scourge.

There is no need to remind this Commission at great length of the obligations to which most European countries have subscribed, at least in spirit if not in the letter:

Convention of 1936 for the Suppression of the Illicit Traffic in Dangerous Drugs, art. 12: The central office (responsible for control of the illicit traffic and set up in article 11) shall cooperate with the central offices of foreign countries to the greatest extent possible, in order to facilitate the prevention and punishment of the offences specified in article 2 (illicit traffic), etc.

Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 30 March 1961, art. 35: ... the Parties shall. ...( c) cooperate closely with each other and with the competent international organizations...

1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, art. 21: ... the Parties shall ... ( b) assist each other

2. There is clearly a need to improve co-operation and to ensure permanent consultations at the regional level, taking account of the recommendations of the United Nations Economic and Social Council and seeking to apply the international conventions as fully as possible.

3. It might be thought that the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, WHO, the ILO, UNESCO, INTERPOL, etc. were already more than sufficient to solve all problems concerning narcotic drugs. This is not the case, since nothing can be done without a continuous effort at the national level. This effort in itself appears to be insufficient in Europe, because each nation has a tendency to work in a dispersed fashion, without taking sufficient account of the experience of its neighbouring countries.

This is what prompted the idea of proposing that the European countries should tackle this problem at the regional level.

4. There is no question of imposing ideas on other European countries but of submitting a number of suggestions to them:

Strengthening of the efforts of the police and the Customs by arranging more frequent meetings at a sufficiently high level, in order to try to define a common policy and improve the means of combating the illicit traffic;

Possible establishment of specialized laboratories at the European level, somewhat for the same reasons which have led the United Nations to set up such a laboratory at Geneva; but practical and immediate applications would be more important than research, which quite rightly predominates at Geneva. Adoption of standardized methods of analysis, micromethods similar to those instituted, for example, for the control of the doping of racehorses, etc.;

Joint research on the best methods of prevention and treatment:

  1. Joint epidemiological studies (contrary to present practice) with the assistance of WHO. There is at present a danger of each country pursuing research along completely individual lines.

  2. Possible control of information (at the present time, if one country makes an effort to control information even if this effort is desirable it may be blocked by a neighbouring country, etc....)

  3. Experiments to improve methods of treatment: Europeans still have much to learn in this regard. The situation is different from that in, for example, the United States, Hong Kong, Iran, etc .... Each country repeats the errors, or rather the experiences, of others, to the eventual detriment of the sick and of society.

    There are more and more subjects of controversy between specialists: treatment in a closed institution, the substitution of methadone addiction for heroin addiction, etc.

    Should treatment be carried out in a psychiatric hospital or in a general hospital, etc.?

    What is the best after-care?

  4. The possible connexion between alcoholism and drug addiction.

  5. The greatest possible equalization of penalties in each European country, to prevent traffickers from finding weak points.

  6. Harmonization of regulations governing poisonous substances, to ensure that a country does not permit a drug which is a potentially addictive substance to be issued without prescription..., agreement on labelling, etc ....

    Attempt to emulate in this field what has been done with the European Pharmacopoeia.

    Rapid exchanges of information on the side-effects of new synthetic products with regard to "dependence ".

  7. Training of specialists: doctors, chemists, pharmacists, paramedical personnel, social workers, etc.

5. This list is not restrictive and it must be understood that there is no question either of replacing the international organizations, to which we owe a great deal of gratitude, or of interfering in the internal affairs of individual European countries.

We must close our ranks in face of this new social scourge, which fortunately is still in the early stages, to slow its development and if possible to arrest it altogether.

All the European countries have always striven in the past to give effective support to United Nations institutions in the fight against drug addiction. It goes without saying that the proposed new initiative can only strengthen that action. If possible it should be co-ordinated within the framework or under the auspices of the United Nations and in more or less constant liaison with the United Nations.

We are certain that the peoples of Europe will, in their wisdom, support our efforts.

The President of the French Republic stated that, in view of the fact that the freedom of movement between the countries of European Economic Community facilitates traffic and supply, it is quite natural that our first co-ordination proposals should be directed towards those countries. This framework should clearly be enlarged at least in the near future to include the United Kingdom, where the development of drug addiction is closely connected with the evolution of this problem in our own countries. It is not excluded that this framework may be enlarged still further if other countries wish to join in the common effort. This is what France desires, if the other countries of the Community give their agreement to this project.

Developments in response to the President's proposal

Following the appeal set forth above, on 20 September 1971 Mr. Maurice Schumann, the French Foreign Minister, submitted to the Council of Ministers of the European Economic Community a communication on European co-ordination in the fight against drug addiction.

Those proposals were well received by the members of the Community and by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the work of the experts could therefore begin.

In November 1971, a first meeting of government representatives of the seven States was held in Paris in order to decide upon the studies to be made.

Subsequently, in December 1971, there was a first meeting of government health, education, enforcement and legal experts in the offices of INTERPOL at St. Cloud, near Paris.

In February 1972, a second meeting of the same experts was held in London.

In May 1972, a second meeting of government representatives was held at Bonn, for the purpose of assessing the work of the experts and preparing for submission to the Ministers of the seven States a resolution or a declaration on the joint action to be taken.

It was for the purpose of considering and, if appropriate, approving this document that the Ministers convened in a conference at Rome.

Results of the Rome conference

The meeting of Ministers responsible for "European co-operation in the fight against the illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and drug addiction", held at Rome on 4 and 5 October 1972, had constructive results, reflected in the following declaration adopted by the Conference:

The Governments of the Kingdom of Belgium, the Federal Republic of Germany, the French Republic, the Italian Republic, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Representedby their competent Ministers ,

Conscious of their great responsibility in combating the misuse of drugs and narcotics,

Convinced that the misuse of drugs constitutes for society a problem of increasing gravity, the availability of drugs should be restricted to legitimate requirements in the fields of medicine and science, methods of prevention, enforcement, treatment and rehabilitation should be responsive to changing needs and circumstances, the implementation, evaluation and further development of appropriate measures require continuing exchange of scientific and practical experience, despite differences between the current situations within the participating States, there exists a common interest in strengthening the co-ordinating regional co-operation,

Recognizing that relaxations of restrictions on movement of persons and goods between the participating States can be abused,

Continuing the initiative of the President of the French Republic,

Aware of the desirability in formulating their own policies of taking into account the programmes of other States in the campaign against the abuse of drugs, hoping that joint action by their Governments may lead to effective containment of drug misuse and trafficking,

And taking into account the proposals formulated by their experts at meetings at Paris, in London and in Bonn,

Accept the following programme:

I. In the sphere of health

  1. To develop prevention by administrative and socio-medical measures and to exchange information;

  2. To appraise methods of treatment of persons misusing or dependent on drugs and to envisage for this purpose joint meetings as well as study-tours and the exchange of specialists;

  3. To give special consideration to the various forms of rehabilitation and to exchange information on the results of experience in this field;

  4. To intensify research, especially in medical and social sciences, and to promote scientific co-operation and the exchange of information in these fields;

  5. To assist the development of closer links between research workers and organisations in their different countries, and in particular to consider with competent national research organisations the preparations needed to pave the way for scientific colloquies in the course of 1973 at which experts in the several fields of research would have the opportunity, first, to form an assessment of work already in progress and secondly, in the light of this assessment, to seek agreement on the priorities for future work; the possible fields to be covered might include (without prejudice to the necessary initial consultations):

    1. Basic laboratory research into substances possibly susceptible of abuse,

    2. Epidemiological research, and

    3. Research into the techniques of re-education for addicts withdrawn from drugs,

II. In the sphere of education and information

  1. To institute a comprehensive and continuing exchange of information,

  2. To promote meetings between experts in various fields, in particular,

    1. To discuss problems of research in the field of education and social hygiene,

    2. To consider methods of health education inside and outside schools,

    3. To encourage contacts between persons "in key positions" in the participating States,

    4. To encourage a widespread exchange of experience between experts and other qualified persons, in particular on social rehabilitation; and to consider the possibility of carrying out surveys through questionnaires on educational aspects of the problem.

A programme of positive action could be envisaged during 1973. It would consist of the following measures in accordance with the London resolutions:

  1. For research

    Joint meetings during the first half of 1973 of not more than six experts from each country;

  2. For the exchange of experience

    Joint meetings during the second half of 1973 of not more than six experts from each country chosen from teachers, doctors and youth workers;

  3. Concerning social rehabilitation

    Joint meetings during the second half of 1973 of not more than six experts from each country chosen from among those having practical responsibility for the social and professional rehabilitation of young people who have become dependent on drugs.

III. In the sphere of enforcement

  1. To improve work contacts between the authorities of the participating States responsible for the enforcement of the law relating to illicit drug trafficking;

  2. To designate a permanent correspondent for each country to be based, if possible, on the respective national central offices of INTERPOL and to have the task of informing the correspondents in other countries and in urgent cases bring them into contact with the competent authority in his own country;

  3. To make possible the dispatch of police and customs officials to give technical assistance in current investigations involving authorities of the participating States;

    Arrangements for police or customs officials to visit other countries, on request, to give assistance with a current investigation, should be developed. These working visits will never involve more than technical assistance and the visiting officials will not have any executing power. It is desirable that the police missions to other countries should be facilitated, announced or prepared by exchanges of messages between the National Central Bureaux of INTERPOL.

  4. To ensure a constant exchange of information between the participating authorities of the individual States,

    Representatives of operational services or those responsible for research and information in each country should constantly keep each other informed by the traditional methods of written communication, and should meet periodically whenever necessary, either with regard to the preparation of new cases or, more generally, to consider problems relating to the fight against illicit drug traffic. The ICPO (INTERPOL) General Secretariat would be invited to send an observer to these meetings.

  5. To make provision for the centralization of information in the participating States,

    It is recommended that a central service should be set up, if not for actual investigations, at least for records, whether or not it is operational.

  6. To ensure close co-ordination in the field of enforcement with the aim of creating unity of action between customs and police, the police and customs authorities in each participating country should - while respecting any regulations or arrangements already in - force be invited to co-ordinate their efforts with regard to law enforcement;

  7. To strengthen co-operation on this basis within the framework of ICPO (INTERPOL) in the European region.

IV. In the field of harmonization of legislation

  1. To examine the possibility of:

    1. Further developing through INTERPOL (ICPO) a regular exchange of information on legislative measures including subordinate regulations,

    2. Working out criteria for a common list of drugs, to which broadly similar controls, particularly over international trade, would be applied in all the participating countries,

    3. Concerting measures taking into account relevant international treaties;

  2. To examine in particular:

    1. The effects of existing legal provisions and sanctions, particularly in relation to those who commit trafficking offences in more than one country;

    2. The question of restricting the freedom of international movement of those convicted of international trafficking;

    3. The adequacy of existing agreements for extradition of those suspected of having committed drug offences;

    4. The question of prohibiting propaganda intended to encourage drug abuse;

    5. The possibility of harmonizing customs legislations on drugs.


In the course of their work, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations and the International Narcotics Control Board have repeatedly stressed the primary role of national and regional efforts in the prevention of drug addiction.

This European co-operation is in line with United Nations recommendations. It involves extending the action pursued in international bodies, by seeking better national application of the letter and spirit of international instruments.

Its object is joint thinking in practical terms by a small number, and in the initial stages, its approach has been deliberately non-institutional.

The declaration adopted by the Governments concerned on 5 October 1972 provides for continued co-operation while ensuring that questions coming within the competence of the European Communities are dealt with in accordance with the provisions of the Treaty of Rome; for a new conference at the ministerial level in 1973 to examine the work of the specialized committees of experts; and for the submission by the Committee on Co-ordination of proposals for improving co-operation.

In participating in such co-operation the States members of the European Communities have full deliberative and voting rights. In future, the Commission of the Communities will be invited to attend, and other interested European States may be associated in the work.



1. C. Vaille, "Toxicomanies aux stupéfiants - un nouveau fléau social en Europe" Semaine Médicale (Semaine des Hôpitaux) , 26 December 1971, 283-290.


Twenty-fourth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs - Bulletin on Narcotics , XXIV, 1, pp. 21-29; and doc. E/4931 (E/CN.7/532) submitted to the forty-ninth session of the Economic and Social Council.