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International cooperation

Drugs are a global problem. Production, trafficking and the use of illicit drugs do not stop at the borders. Tackling the drugs problem is a shared responsibility of countries worldwide to protect what is at the heart of the international community: the people.

The EU Drugs Strategy 2013-2020 aims to further strengthen coordination between EU countries and its international partners and to boost cooperation between the EU and drug producing and transit countries.

The EU has intense cooperation with strategic partners and has also adopted a strategic approach focussing on specific drug trafficking routes, involving producer, transit and consumer markets.

The EU has agreed action plans to address drugs with a number of countries and provides assistance for a wide range of drugs-related projects in Latin America, the Caribbean and West Africa along the cocaine trafficking route, and in Afghanistan and Central Asia along the heroin route. The EU is also stepping up cooperation with the European Neighbourhood Policy countries and with Russia, to address illicit drugs.

Particular priority is given to technical assistance projects in the candidate countries and potential candidate countries, such as Turkey and the countries of the Western Balkans, to help prepare for their possible accession to the EU.


International agreements

The EU's approach to the drugs problem, the principle of shared responsibility, the protection of human dignity and human rights are an integral part of EU agreements with countries worldwide.

Cooperation between the EU and other regions or countries has a significant role to play in preventing relevant chemicals (drug precursors) from ending up in the illicit manufacture of dangerous substances, such as ecstasy. The EU has bi-lateral agreements with many countries to prevent the diversion of precursors from licit trade to the illicit manufacture of drugs.


International Organisations 

The EU cooperates with other international organisations working in the field of illicit drugs and takes coordinated action in the global efforts against drugs:

The international framework for regulating the production, export, import, trade and sales of illicit drugs is based on three United Nations Conventions. Most UN member countries participate in these conventions and have introduced drug control measures.

The EU has accepted the five principles of international drug policy adopted at the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs in 1998: shared responsibility, emphasis on multilateralism, the balanced approach to reduce drug demand and drug supply, mainstreaming alternative development projects and respect for human rights.

The EU and its Member States play an important role in the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs, which is the central policy-making body in international drugs policy. The EU and its Member States are active in the debate in preparation of the United Nations Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS) which will take place in 2016. The Commission is one of the major donors of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.


Drug Trafficking Routes


Cannabis is produced in over 176 countries. Some 54% of cannabis is grown in the Americas, 26% in Africa (Morocco is main producer), 15% in Asia, 4% in Europe and 1% in Oceania.


Most cocaine in the world is produced in the Andean region (Bolivia, Colombia and Peru). West Africa is a transit and storage zone for trafficking cocaine from South America to Europe, while Latin American countries are increasingly becoming transit and consumer countries as well.

The main cocaine sea routes run through:

  • the Caribbean via the Azores to Portugal;
  • from South America via Cape Verde or Madeira and the Canary Islands to Europe;
  • from South America via West Africa to Portugal and Spain.

Ecstasy / amphetamines

Ecstasy and amphetamines are mostly produced within the EU.

The Netherlands and Belgium are the main producers of ecstasy (with Poland, Estonia and Lithuania running up). The Czech Republic, Slovakia, the Netherlands and Belgium are the main producers of amphetamines. The chemicals used to manufacture synthetic drugs (precursors) originate mostly from outside the EU (China, India).


Most heroin in the world originates from Afghanistan, Myanmar and Laos, with Afghanistan being overwhelmingly the biggest producer.
Most heroin reaches Europe via Central Asia and the Balkan routes, starting in Turkey via:

  • Bulgaria, FYROM, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia into Italy or Slovenia;
  • via FYROM into Kosovo or Albania into Greece. A route via Ukraine and Romania is also gaining importance.

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