Key legal and policy framework


The challenges of transnational organised crime and drugs have been preoccupying the international community for decades and specific legal instruments have been created to this end. The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances and UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances constitute the architecture of the multilateral system in the area of drugs. In addition, the UN Transnational Organized Crime Convention (UNTOC) is a legally-binding instrument through which States parties commit to taking a series of measures against transnational organized crime. These include the creation of domestic offences to combat the problem, the adoption of new, sweeping frameworks for mutual legal assistance, extradition, law enforcement cooperation and technical assistance, and training. In April 2016, a Special Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGASS 2016) was convened and adopted an outcome document entitled “Our joint commitment to effectively addressing and countering the world drug problem”. All UN Member States will have to report on the implementation of the outcome document, which highlights the links with the Sustainable Development Goals, and calls includes operational recommendations on strengthening international cooperation in the fight against drugs, and on responses to drug-related crime.

The EU has used a set of policy tools to develop a strategic response to the threats raised by drug production and trafficking. The EU approach to drugs can be summarized as a combination of policies and actions that tackle both drug supply and demand, based on evidence about the effectiveness of such measures. It aims at reducing health, social and security risks and harms caused by drugs, with full respect for fundamental and human rights. This approach also contributes to a better understanding of all aspects of the drugs phenomenon and of the impact of interventions tackling it.

The 2013-2020 EU Drugs Strategy identifies a set of objectives, and specifically in the area of international cooperation calls for strengthening dialogue and cooperation with third countries on drugs issues in a comprehensive and balanced manner. In the context of international cooperation, the EU Drugs Strategy sets forward ten priorities, including that ‘the EU international response and actions in priority third countries and regions around the world are comprehensive taking into account every dimension of the drug phenomenon, and address the development, stability and security of these countries and regions through enhanced partnership’. In addition, the 2015 European Agenda on Security addresses the issue of drug trafficking from the organised crime perspective; disrupting the latter is one of the Agenda's three priorities.

Internally, the EU policy cycle for organised and serious international crime, provides for an effective cooperation platform between Member States law enforcement agencies, EU Institutions, EU Agencies and relevant third parties; also with the aim to deliver coherent and robust operational action targeting the most pressing criminal threats facing the EU, including on drug trafficking. Given the trans-national nature of drug trafficking, any EU action in third countries should seek to synergise with the EU policy cycle and feed into the European Multidisciplinary Platform against Criminal Threats (EMPACT Heroin Group).

(Photo by EU2017EE Estonian Presidency (European Council) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons)