The Council of Europe Co-operation Group to Combat Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking in Drugs (the Pompidou Group)

Sections

ABSTRACT
Introduction
The Pompidou Group
European co-operation in the control of drug traffic
Problems connected with drug addicts in prison
The care of hard-core addicts
Problems relating to the staffing of treatment and rehabilitation centres
Development of administrative monitoring systems for the assessment of public health and social problems related to drug misuse
Drug trafficking on the high seas
The role of the criminal justice system in responding to the needs of drug misusers
Methods of reaching young people particularly at risk
Problems concerning women and drugs
Control services at major European airports
Cannabis misuse in Europe
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) among drug misusers
Consideration of elements to be included in the proposed United Nations convention against illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances
Conclusion
Annex

Details

Author: N. A. NAGLER
Pages: 31 to 40
Creation Date: 1987/01/01

The Council of Europe Co-operation Group to Combat Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking in Drugs (the Pompidou Group) *

N. A. NAGLER Head of Drugs Branch, Home Office, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; Chairman of the Committee of Permanent Correspondents of the Pompidou Group, Strasbourg, France

ABSTRACT

The Pompidou Group was set up in 1971 to provide a forum for exchanging views and concerting action in Western Europe in response to the growing drugs problem. Until 1979 it had no formal status, but in 1980 the Group became part of the Council of Europe with member States being free to choose whether to join or not. Its initial membership of six countries has expanded to 16 members. Every two to three years, ministers from member countries meet to review the work of the Group and to set a new programme of activities. Government officials (Permanent Correspondents) then meet to further the programme by arranging meetings, working groups, seminars, symposia and related activities of experts in particular fields. The Group has considered a wide variety of topics of general interest, which included: European co-operation in the control of drug traffic; problems connected with drug addicts in prison; the care of hard-core addicts; problems related to the staffing of treatment and rehabilitation services; the development of administrative monitoring systems for the assessment of public health and social problems related to drug misuse; drug trafficking on the high seas; the role of the criminal justice system in responding to the needs of drug misusers; methods of reaching young people particularly at risk; problems concerning women and drugs; control services at major European airports; cannabis misuse in Europe; acquired immunodeficiency syndrome among drug misusers; and consideration of elements for inclusion in a new United Nations convention against illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.

Introduction

Within Europe, co-ordination of European activity to combat drug trafficking and misuse is carried out by a number of means. European customs

* Reports and papers on many activities described in this article are available from:

The Secretariat

Council of Europe Co-operation Group to Combat Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking in Drugs

Council of Europe, BP 431 R6-67006

Strasbourg Cedex. France

and police forces work closely together on a direct bilateral basis on individual operations and they make extensive use of their international umbrella organizations at European level, the Customs Co-operation Council and the International Criminal Police Organization (ICPO/Interpol). On the demand side of the equation, the World Health Organization (WHO) pursues activities at European level relating to treatment and rehabilitation of drug misusers. But the need for a body which provides for co-operation at government level has long been acknowledged. This is provided by the Council of Europe Co-operation Group to Combat Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking in Drugs (the Pompidou Group), which is currently chaired by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The Pompidou Group

The Pompidou Group was first set up in 1971 on the initiative of the former President of France, the late Georges Pompidou. Its purpose was to provide a forum for exchanging views and concerting action in Western Europe in response to the growing drugs problem of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Until 1979 the Group was free-standing: it had no formal status or full-time secretariat. It was serviced by the country which currently occupied the chair (France, 1971-1977, and Sweden, 1977-1979). During that period, while meetings helped to develop common understanding, the Group had only limited effectiveness; several initiatives for detailed studies were launched, but partly because of the lack of a full-time secretariat these were not carried through entirely effectively. By 1980, even though the European drugs problem had not reached the proportions it has today, it had become clear that the problem was not going to disappear, was growing worse, and needed a firmer co-ordinated response from European Governments. In an effort to satisfy those demands the Group decided in 1980 to link itself with the Council of Europe. It was given the status, within the Council, of a "partial agreement", that is to say it was an organ of the Council which member States were free to join or not as they chose.

The initial membership of the Group in 1971 was composed of the six countries then comprising the European Communities (Belgium, France, Germany, Federal Republic of, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands) together with the United Kingdom. Denmark and Ireland joined on becoming members of the European Community, and Sweden joined shortly afterwards. Subsequently, Greece, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and Turkey have joined, so that membership of the Group has now expanded to 16 members. Since 1986 the Commission of the European Communities has participated in the work of the Group. The chair was taken by France from 1980 to 1984 and by the United Kingdom thereafter. Every two to three years, ministers from member countries meet to review the work of the Group and to set a new programme of activities for the Group to pursue. Officials from member Governments (Permanent Correspondents) then meet at twice-yearly intervals to further the programme of work which ministers have set. This they do by arranging meetings, working groups, seminars, symposia and related activities of experts in particular fields. The Group also administers a fellowship scheme which enables students or professionals in individual member countries to study particular aspects of the problem in other member countries. In addition to the programme approved by ministers, the Permanent Correspondents are free to add further topics if they consider it desirable.

The Group is not an executive body; it does not draw up conventions, provide aid or act as a channel for the passage of operational information. There are other bodies for this-the Customs Co-operation Council, ICPO/ Interpol, the United Nations-and European Governments are very conscious of the need for international bodies to avoid duplication of functions. Rather the Group provides a conduit for the exchange and development of ideas between Western European Governments which, because they share a common culture and are geographically close, face common problems. The existence of the Group recognizes that these problems can best be tackled by means of shared information and a common approach.

Since the Group became part of the Council of Europe in 1980, ministers have met three times, in 1981, 1984 and 1987. Their meetings, and other suggestions made by the Permanent Correspondents, have resulted in the Group looking at a wide variety of topics. The remainder of this article describes the work that the Group has undertaken over this period.

European co-operation in the control of drug traffic

This topic, originally considered at the 1981 Ministerial Conference, was set deliberately widely in order to give the Group the maximum flexibility to discuss issues of topical importance. The Permanent Correspondents decided early on that the most useful area of discussion under this heading was the question of tracing and seizing the assets of drug traffickers. In 1983 the Group held a technical conference on the issue. Forty-two persons from Group member countries and representatives of the Customs Co-operation Council, ICPO/Interpol and the United Nations attended. Its recommendations were split into action to be taken at national and at international level.

  1. More effective use should be made of existing powers to trace and seize assets;

  2. Law enforcement officers and judicial and fiscal authorities should receive specific training in tracing and seizure techniques and possibilities;

  3. Where necessary, inter-agency co-operation should be improved;

  4. Governments should draw up inventories of means of action;

  5. Inter-agency groups could be set up to exchange information about persons whose assets might indicate illegal activity;

  6. Existing machinery should, where appropriate, be improved;

  7. Attention should be given to the applications of fiscal law.

At international level, the following action was recommended:

  1. Countries should provide details of minimum requirements to enable the authorities of each to provide information and assistance when required by others;

  2. United States legislation, which was felt to be in advance of that in Europe, should be studied for ideas as to how legislation in European countries might be framed;

  3. Maximum use should be made of existing mutual legal assistance treaties such as the European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters;

  4. Formal and informal exchange of information on the assets of possible drug traffickers should be encouraged;

  5. Better use should be made of the facilities of ICPO/Interpol.

A subsequent meeting of experts considered what elements on this particular topic could be usefully included in the proposed United Nations convention against illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances and drew up the outline of a European agreement. It is expected that the Group will retain the topic on its agenda in order to promote the further development and effective administration of laws to this end.

Problems connected with drug addicts in prison

The Group decided to remit consideration of this question to the European Committee on Crime Problems, which, in co-operation with the Messina International Centre for Sociological, Penal and Penitentiary Research and Studies, organized a seminar on the subject at Messina in December 1982. Some 60 persons attended from all member countries of the Council of Europe. They looked at the question from the viewpoint of medical doctors, prison administrations and social welfare workers. The general conclusions of the seminar indicated the different ways in which drug addicts can be dealt with in prison, from the viewpoint of prison administrations and medical and social services, and brought out the need to distinguish between therapeutic demands and special security needs. The Group has no immediate plans to pursue this topic further in isolation, although some aspects of it may be considered below, in the section dealing with the role of the criminal justice system in responding to the needs of drugs misusers.

The care of hard-core addicts

In 1981 ministers had noted that Group member States had various and unique treatment and resocialization methods for chronically addicted persons who have spent time in residential care and often in prison, but for whom conventional treatment has failed. A symposium was held on the subject in 1983 attended by professionals engaged in the care of addicts. It discussed four themes: full-time residential care, non-voluntary admission to treatment programmes, maintenance programmes and research. No particular conclusions were reached in terms of preference of one kind of care and treatment over another, but the symposium provided a useful opportunity for professionals to meet and exchange views and experience. A selection of the papers for the conference has been published so that the views and ideas put forward may be available for those professionals interested in seeing them. The Group is not planning further discussion of this topic for the immediate future.

Problems relating to the staffing of treatment and rehabilitation centres

The 1981 Ministerial Conference agreed that the recruitment, training and permanent education of staff working with drug addicts is an important aspect of the treatment and resocialization of addicts, and that an exchange of views on this subject would be useful. A symposium held in 1983 was attended by professionals working in the field. Its conclusions and recommendations were as follows:

  1. Basic concepts of drug addiction should be incorporated in all initial training for medical and social work;

  2. Continuous training and resources should be available for drug addiction specialists;

  3. Certain specific recommendations were made concerning the training of different types of personnel such as social workers and volunteers who are ex-addicts;

  4. There should be further studies, at international level, of the following: minimum content of basic training; appropriate accreditation systems for individuals and institutions; standardization of training to allow for international exchanges;

  5. There should be improvement in training for social workers dealing with drug addiction among minority and immigrant groups;

  6. Pompidou Group fellowships so far awarded have provided a valuable indicator of potential for co-operation between specialist staff.

The symposium proved a useful opportunity for specialists in the field to meet and exchange views. Its results were published so that they would be widely available to others. The Pompidou Group is continuing the fellowship scheme, but has no plans to take this particular subject further in the immediate future, although other topics in the treatment field are featured in the new programme of the Group.

Development of administrative monitoring systems for the assessment of public health and social problems related to drug misuse

Ministers have recognized the desirability of having objective data available so that critical analysis can be made of current situations and trends in drug misuse. A working group of experts appointed by the Pompidou Group examined the scope for European co-operation in epidemiological research, and recommended two specific activities:

  1. A simultaneous study in a number of major European cities using similar methodology;

  2. A co-ordinated survey of school populations.

The report on the first of these projects has been completed. It is likely to prove particularly helpful in developing a range of indicators for assessing the prevalence of drug addiction. Work is continuing on the second project.

Drug trafficking on the high seas

The problem of drug trafficking on the high seas is one that particularly affects countries of the Mediterranean basin. The Group has been considering the possibility of drawing up an international convention allowing for ships suspected of drug trafficking to be boarded outside national territorial waters. The question is a complex and difficult one. Any action against ships by States other than the flag State in cases where the evidence was not plain and manifest could lead to abuses and might undermine legal principles which are important both in political and strategic contexts. On the other hand, any agreement based upon the need to obtain the consent of the flag State would only lead to offenders' using flags of convenience. Work is well advanced on the drafting of a convention setting out general principles of international co-operation in the field.

The role of the criminal justice system in responding to the needs of drug misusers

The 1984 Ministerial Conference agreed that the Group should examine the role of the various agencies in the criminal justice system in handling drug misusers with whom they come into contact. For example, how far do these agencies consider that in choosing one of the many options open to them, they can respond positively to the problems of drug misusers? Do they consider it part of their task to assist in the prevention of drug misuse and in treatment and rehabilitation of drug misusers? The Group decided to hold two symposia. The theme of the first was drug misusers in criminal proceedings, covering procedures and pre-trial processes, penal sanctions and also non-repressive measures taken by investigating judges, public prosecutors and the criminal courts with regard to drug misusers suspected or convicted of a criminal offence. The symposium compared the different measures and options available to deal with drug offenders and the results of such measures. Participants included judges (for example, investigating judges, magistrates and sentencing judges), public prosecutors, practising lawyers and probation officers. The second symposium, which is to take place in 1987, would have the theme of the criminal justice system and social rehabilitation for drug misusers, and would deal with ways in which the criminal justice system can co-operatewith health and social services to help with the rehabilitation of convicted drug misusers while in detention, on release, or during the course of a non-custodial sentence. Participants might include prison staff, probation service staff, statutory or voluntary organizations assisting ex-prisoners and general social service representatives.

Methods of reaching young people particularly at risk

A general goal for the work in all countries of the Pompidou Group is to prevent recruitment of new drug addicts. Through information and other preventive measures society in different ways makes contact with youth and others in order to persuade them to stay away from illicit drugs. There is, however, a group of young people who are on the way to becoming established drug addicts and who are not influenced by general preventive measures. These young people often live in socially insecure situations, leave school at an early age and start criminal activities accompanied by regular abuse of alcohol and drugs. In 1984, Ministers suggested that the Group should consider examining ways of reaching such young people to help them change their situation before they become addicts. A working group is considering the handling of this question. It has decided to hold in 1987 a seminar of practitioners in the field who might be invited to consider and exchange views on how best to deal with this aspect of the problem.

Problems concerning women and drugs

The Group has recognized that women drug misusers at present face particular problems. For example, drug misuse may produce unstable family conditions resulting in a woman drug misuser having to care for children as a single parent. There are also particular problems concerning the treatment of pregnant drug-addicted women. There is a school of thought among those involved in treatment that women respond better to treatment in single-sex establishments. A working group of experts met in 1986 and identified a number of issues which will be the subject of further consideration before a decision is taken on how best to pursue this topic.

Control services at major European airports

Drug traffic to European airports comes from a variety of sources, and smugglers from different parts of the world can use different techniques. At the same time, smugglers are increasingly varying their routes so as to avoid detection. It is therefore useful for drug control authorities at European airports to be able to exchange knowledge and experience. The Pompidou Group provided an opportunity for this by organizing a seminar in Paris in March 1986. Discussions at the seminar were based on thematic reports on the following subjects: the selection of passengers, control of commercial freight and staff training; technical and scientific means of detection; ingested drugs; the "controlled delivery" technique; and international co-operation for the control of drug trafficking in European airports.

The seminar proved particularly valuable in bringing together police and customs services responsible for law enforcement at airports, and it is planned to hold similar seminars at other major European airports.

Cannabis misuse in Europe

Although less dangerous than some drugs of addiction, cannabis is by far the most widely misused illicit drug in Western Europe. Many social groups do not regard it as a dangerous drug and use it as an alternative or addition to or substitute for alcohol and tobacco. Views on the problems it presents differ. Some regard it as a "gateway" drug because it initiates the drug-taking habit and leads to more serious drug-taking by that route. Others believe its gateway potential lies in the fact that dealers in cannabis are also likely to deal in, and introduce their customers to, more harmful drugs. Others again consider that cannabis is harmful to health and ought to be controlled for that reason. And yet others believe that the battle against cannabis has already been lost and that to continue to treat it as an illegal drug creates more problems than it solves. Even though the countries of Western Europe comprise a reasonably homogeneous social and legal group, opinions on how to handle the cannabis problem vary. The situation is a fluid one and consequently the Pompidou Group has not conducted a specific investigation into the question, but it maintains a watching brief on developments within its member States.

Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) among drug misusers

Intravenous drugs misusers are at high risk of contracting and spreading infection with the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS. As the principal European co-ordinating body on all aspects of drug misuse, the Pompidou Group has a duty to take the AIDS question into account. At the same time, AIDS is a general health problem and is being considered in depth by bodies such as WHO. The Group is exchanging information and monitoring the developing international discussion of the problems presented by this disease, and will be giving particular attention, in a number of activities, to the problem of AIDS among drug misusers.

Consideration of elements to be included in the proposed United Nations convention against illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances

It is to be hoped that the proposed new United Nations convention will constitute a valuable tool in the fight against drug trafficking. It is therefore important that the elements which it includes should be carefully thought out and that the convention should be capable of securing ratification by as many States as possible. In June 1985, the Pompidou Group held a special meeting to discuss the elements which might be included in the convention. The Group held a further meeting in October 1986 to exchange views on the draft prepared by the United Nations Secretariat. Having met to discuss the convention, States represented in the Pompidou Group have made their own suggestions to the United Nations individually.

Conclusion

It was pointed out at the beginning of this article that the Pompidou Group is not an executive body, but a forum for discussion and co-operation. It is in fact possible to criticize the Group on that score. But to do so would be to misunderstand the nature of what it is possible to achieve at the international level. There are already a number of international bodies that take part in drug control activities, and it is important that any organization, such as the Pompidou Group, should complement the work of other such bodies, rather than duplicate or overlap with them. The Pompidou Group performs a valuable role in pursuing topics which are not dealt with in other international forums. It particularly benefits from its ability to function on a multidisciplinary basis, so that it can examine issues across the whole spectrum of drug misuse and illicit trafficking.

The Ministerial Conference of the Group took place in London in January 1987. Ministers reviewed the achievements of the Group since their previous meeting in September 1984, exchanged views on matters of current concern, including developments which are taking place in the United Nations and other international bodies, and decided upon a new programme of work (a copy of which is annexed to this article).

In considering the role of the Pompidou Group, it is important to bear in mind that, in the last analysis, the fight against drug misuse is one for individual Governments, societies, and the public at large. The problem is a complex one, and a search for possible solutions has become a matter of the highest priority. There will be a much better chance of finding some solutions if problems and experiences are shared. The purpose of this article has been to show the wide range of activities that the Pompidou Group has covered, and to show how valuable a multidisciplinary discussion group of this kind can be.

Annex

NEW PROGRAMME OF WORK OF THE POMPIDOU GROUP

The new programme of work of the Pompidou Group includes the following elements:

  1. Practical measures for effective implementation of legislation to confiscate the proceeds of drug trafficking;

  2. Mechanisms to improve co-ordination of controls in major ports and of maritime surveillance;

  3. Role of the media in shaping attitudes to drug misuse;

  4. Role of primary health care personnel and short-term crisis intervention in responding to the needs of drug misusers;

  5. Problems related to the operating and funding of treatment facilities;

  6. Encouragement of co-operation and action by municipalities and local action groups;

  7. Misuse of medically prescribed psychotropic drugs;

  8. Review of drugs legislation in member States in order to compare solutions adopted to deal with similar problems;

  9. Preparation of a handbook setting out the division of responsibilities for drug questions at national level;

  10. Detection and prevention of drug dependence in the armed forces;

  11. Exchange of information on the role and the effects of methadone in treatment.