The role of the Pompidou Group of the Council of Europe in combating drug abuse and illicit drug trafficking


Organization and activities
The meeting of ministers in November 1981
Implementation of the programme of work
Concluding remarks


Author: C. BRULÉ
Pages: 73 to 77
Creation Date: 1983/01/01

The role of the Pompidou Group of the Council of Europe in combating drug abuse and illicit drug trafficking

C. BRULÉ Chief Administrator, Secretary of the Pompidou Group,Council of Europe Strasbourg,France


The Pompidou Group, a co-operation group to combat drug abuse and illicit trafficking in drugs, has functioned at the Council of Europe since 1980 as a section of the Directorate of Economic and Social Affairs. Owing to its specific features, it is the only organization of its kind in Europe that deals with all areas of drug control, including the work of police and customs authorities, as well as work on prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, epidemiology and research. It also deals with fellowship programmes. The political and technical activities of the Pompidou Group are described in this article, illustrating how it operates in the area of combating drug abuse at the international level.


The purpose of the Pompidou Group is to study the problems of drug abuse and illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs from a multi-disciplinary point of view. It was set up in 1971 following a proposal by Georges Pompidou, President of the Republic of France, to his colleagues in the European Economic Community.

In March 1980, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe authorized interested countries to set up a partial agreement for the purpose of continuing the work of the Pompidou Group within the Council of Europe. The representatives of the signatory countries reaffirmed that the methods of work that the Group had used hitherto would continue to be applied under the Partial Agreement. Any other member State of the Council of Europe may join the Group at any time by appropriately notifying the Secretary-General.

States that are not members of the Council of Europe may belong to the Group, subject to unanimous agreement by member States of the Group.

Organization and activities

Since l November 1980, the Secretariat of the Pompidou Group has been established within the Council of Europe, as part of the Partial Agreement Division under the Directorate of Economic and Social Affairs and a Chief Administrator and Secretary of the Group has been appointed.


The original members of the Group were seven : Belgium, France, Germany, Federal Republic of, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. Denmark, Ireland and Sweden were admitted later, and Turkey joined the Group in March 1980, when the Council of Europe decided to set up the Partial Agreement. Greece joined on 9 February 1981 and Norway on l March 1983. The United States of America and the Holy See, at their request and after deliberation by the Permanent Correspondents, have been associated with the work of the Pompidou Group on an ad hoc technical basis.

Methods of work and procedures

Using a multi-disciplinary approach to drug-related problems, the Group :

  1. Enables the European ministers concerned, who meet periodically, to exchange views and information on measures that have been or are being taken to combat narcotic drug abuse and illicit trafficking ;

  2. Enables the European ministers concerned to propose and discuss new action to be taken in order to combat narcotic drug abuse and illicit trafficking ;

  3. Provides a framework for multi-disciplinary co-ordination of activities at the European level.

Meetings at ministerial levels

The Pompidou Group meets at the ministerial Level every two years, as a rule, but special meetings of the Group may be called in exceptional or urgent cases. The meetings are held in closed sessions.

Permanent correspondents

The Permanent Correspondents, of which one is appointed for each State member of the Pompidou Group, are in personal contact with the minister or ministers taking part in the Group's meetings and are responsible for preparing the meetings at the ministerial level.

The Permanent Correspondents and experts meet approximately every six months to evaluate the implementation of established guidelines, to exchange views in all areas of concern, to work towards the co-ordination of drug-control operations among all the relevant international organizations in Europe and to prepare future meetings of ministers in accordance with the terms of reference. The countries represented attach great importance to this political aspect of the Pompidou Group's activities.

The work of the Permanent Correspondents includes :

  • Drawing up the final agenda and the topics for discussion at the next ministers' meeting ;

  • Preparing the material required to draft the basic documents ; preparing the way for the practical arrangements for the ministers' meeting ;

  • Exchanging information about the latest events in the participating countries in relation to the subjects discussed by the ministers at the previous meetings.

The meeting of ministers in November 1981

The last meeting of ministers took place in Strasbourg from 12 to 13 November 1981 . It was chaired by the French Minister of National Solidarity.

At the meeting, the ministers undertook a comprehensive review of all the problems at issue and went on to discuss the following topics :

  1. The development of drug abuse in Europe ;

  2. International co-operation for the repression of illicit trafficking ;

  3. Care for the heavily addicted ;

  4. The abuse of psychotropic medicines.

Finally, the ministers defined the following priority areas in which further research at the European level would be useful :

  1. European co-operation in the fight against illicit trafficking ;

  2. Problems related to the repression of drug use ;

  3. Problems related to the imprisonment of addicts ;

  4. Care for heavily addicted persons and problems relating to the personnel who provide medical care and rehabilitation services ;

  5. balance of legitimate supply and demand for opiates ;

  6. Exchange of information on research in Europe ;

  7. Control of precursors ;

  8. Development of national administrative monitoring systems for the evaluation of social and public health problems arising from drug abuse.

The Permanent Correspondents were assigned the task of implementing the programme of work.

Implementation of the programme of work

The Permanent Correspondents have considered the subject of European co-operation in combating the illicit drug traffic and the problems related to the reduction of drug abuse.

With respect to the problems related to the imprisonment of addicts, the Group has been kept informed of the work carried out by the Council of Europe's Directorate of Legal Affairs, which held a seminar on drugs and prison in December 1982, in co-operation with the Italian authorities.

The problems relating to the imprisonment of addicts were also discussed at the Symposium on the Care of Hard Core Addicts, held by the Group from 14 to 16 March 1983. Those attending the symposium included specialists from 10 of the 13 member States and a number of officials from the ministries concerned. The United States participated and the International Council on Alcohol and Addictions was represented by two observers. The working documents prepared by the participants and the texts drafted during the Symposium are scheduled to be published in book form.

Another symposium, on personnel dealing with drug addicts and problems related to drug addiction, was held from 20 to 23 September 1983. In addition to States members of the Group, representatives of the United States and the Holy See also attended the symposium and a number of international organizations participated as observers. Particular problems discussed were training and the problems of staff who became despondent and resigned.

With respect to the development of national administrative monitoring systems for the evaluation of social and public health problems in the area of drug abuse, the Permanent Correspondents decided at their sixth meeting, held in Paris from 20 to 22 October 1982, to convene an expert group meeting on epidemiology. This group of experts met in December 1982 and again in June 1983. The expert group prepared a programme of work, which included:

  1. Further meetings to exchange information on current research, the techniques used and the problems of choosing indicators;

  2. A survey on the development of drug problems in some European capitals, based on common indicators;

  3. Plans for collecting national data and making international comparisons;

  4. A feasibility study on conducting a survey in schools, with a standard self-reporting questionnaire, simultaneously in several European countries and possibly in the United States.

Since June 1982 there has been a system of study and research fellowships within the framework of the Pompidou Group, designed to provide assistance to people working in this area.

Concluding remarks

The Pompidou Group is a forum for the fruitful exchange of views on the balance of legitimate supply and demand for opiates and on the control of precursors, and the Group keeps abreast of developments in all aspects of these problems. Following the exchange of information on research in Europe, a study was carried out by a consultant.

There is also co-ordination with all the departments, divisions and directorates of the Council of Europe that deal with problems relating to drug abuse. Particular mention should be made of the Health Division, which has carried out research, within the framework of the European Public Health Committee, on prevention and the treatment of drug addicted persons. The research has led to the adoption by the Committee of Ministers of two recommendations [R (82) 5 and R (82) 6] on the prevention of drug addiction and on the treatment and social reintegration of drug addicted persons.

The Directorate of Legal Affairs has dealt with crime questions, within the framework of the European Committee on Crime Problems, for a long time. An example is the research on the penal aspects of drug abuse which were the basis of resolution (73) 6, currently being revised.

The Governments of member States are informed by the Permanent Correspondents of the conclusions of work done by the Pompidou Group, and reports will be submitted at the next meeting of ministers, scheduled for September 1984.