Print this page

A conference for action

The legal framework of the European Union provides stakeholders working on drug policies a number of benchmarks. These offer the basis for a balanced approach between prevention, harm reduction, treatment and supply reduction, as well as between public order, health and social development. This flexible framework allows the Member States to adopt a contrasting range of legislations, from repressive measures against drug use, to the authorisation of small-scale traffic and the testing of remedial policies. At a city level, the heterogeneity is even greater. The response of the various services involved is highly variable, and the few studies on police and court practices show significant differences in repressive responses. The same applies to health care or social welfare: the quality and number of tools and their geographical location creates a deep inequality of resources across Europe for citizens. This inequality breeds dangerous imbalances for the continuity of certain national policies, but worryingly, no longer corresponds to the degree of European integration that mobility has brought about in recent years.

As democratically elected officials, we have to ensure the common good, public interest, and "live together better", irrespective of our religious, ethical and philosophical beliefs regarding our citizens’ drug-related behaviour. In compliance with the laws, we must find a modus vivendi that allows all citizens to feel part of their community and their city!
Drug use has become inherent in our lifestyles, working lives, and leisure time. The number of substances used to stimulate the imagination, amplify physical or mental capacities, increase fun and discover new pleasures grows every day. The use of these substances should be regulated. Each person manages their own health, and their wellbeing within the community, their budget is a measure of their consumption. Drug abuse concerns us, where a person is no longer able to limit themselves to moderate and safe use, and further jeopardises their chances of social integration into society, a community, or a group. Drug abuse triggers the attention and reaction of the public authorities.

Public order, social welfare and health are jeopardized by excessive drug use. But social policy has never depended on people’s beliefs. In a national context, it is the elected officials’ duty to decide on the orientation of a policy to fight against drug trafficking, or to regulate drug use. However, at a local level, it is the elected official’s role to ensure the conditions that contribute to “live together”. This is called pragmatism.
The sheer range of different situations and policies in the cities, has lead European cities to exchange local policies, and for cities with such a pragmatic approach to help cities without. It was the aim of our programme "Democracy, cities and drugs" over the past six years and it is the focus of our conference in Vienna. The conference should represent more than a mere declaration, rather giving us the elements that form a European cities drugs policy, combining pragmatism and realism, public order, health and personal development.