5 June 2009
By Steffen Geyer
Next Sunday 500 million Europeans are called to elect the next European Parliament. The DHV (Deutscher Hanf Verband, German Hemp Association) supports the “call to vote” and has published a drug policy based endorsement in order to take part in the debate about the upcoming course of the union of states.
But – how much influence has the European Parliament in the EU game of power? Who is ruling the European drug policy? The DHV was asking these and other questions in an interview with Joep Oomen, director of ENCOD.
Is there a European drug policy?
DHV: Is there a common drug policy in the EU? Will the “Treaty of Lisbon” change the situation?
Joep Oomen: The EU is far away from a uniform strategy in tackling the drugs issue.
The member states understand this field of policy as a part of their internal affairs and refuse to assign these competences to Brussels.
The “Treaty of Lisbon” will not change this. For example – the step-by-step unification of the European justice systems has fallen victim to the red pencil after the collapse of the “European Constitution”.
Sure, the treaty is an important step for the approximation of the member states, but many years will pass until we will have a “EU drug policy” which deserves the name.
DHV: What can we expect from the European Parliament in the next years?
Joep Oomen: Unfortunately the Parliament has only little influence in decisions on drug policy. This is due to the fact that drugs are dealth with first of all as a police and justice issue nearly everywhere in the EU.
But the parliament isn’t forced to full idleness. Especially when the left and ecological parties raise their power with this European election, ENCOD expects the parliament to increase its right to propose and recommend intensely.
But we should not expect too much from these initiatives. The European Council of Ministers will not integrate them into their strategies until there is enough pressure on the national governments from below.
We, the Europeans, have all a responsibility in this, one which we still have to face long time after the Election Day.
Influencing European policy
DHV: What can the Germans do to support an European drug policy besides voting?
Joep Oomen: On the 8th of June we all have “new” ambassadors in Brussels and Strasbourg. It’s our task to show them what to use their new democratic power for.
Our most important duty in the next weeks is to contact the respective parliamentarians and focus their view on the nuisances of national and European drug policy. Together we can achieve that issues like the legalization of cannabis, true harm reduction and others are placed on the EU agenda.
Anyone who would like to collaborate, please support ENCOD.
DHV: What is ENCOD and what are you doing?
Joep Oomen: ENCOD is an association which started in the 1990ies as an alliance of drug policy NGOs. Its original challenge was to take part in the discussions about the implementation and function of a European drug agency which then became the EMCDDA.
Soon we became the black sheep of the Brussels lobbyist scene. The bureaucracy tried everything to ignore us.
In the end some of the original members had to leave the association because they feared problems with their national government partners.
Against all pressure ENCOD survived this difficult time. Sometimes the anger caused by the massive resistance was the only motivation that remained.
But hard times pass by and today ENCOD is a dialogue partner. We still don’t speak at eye level but our remarks are no longer ignored.
We will continue our efforts to be the voice for a desire many Europeans share – the desire for just and effective drug policy within the European Union.
DHV: We wish you all the best with this task and say thank you for the interview.