Drug precursors are chemicals used in illicit manufacture of drugs such as cocaine, heroin, ecstasy or methamphetamines. However, these chemicals have primarily large and varied legitimate uses, for example in the production of plastics, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, perfumes, detergents or aromas. Effective control of the legitimate trade of these chemicals is the best ways of fighting against their diversion for illicit drug manufacture.
Since 1990, in transposing the provisions of Article 12 of the 1988 United Nations Convention against illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, the Community adopted legislation on control of trade in drug precursors, aiming at striking a balance between taking the necessary actions to prevent diversion of drug precursors while allowing their legitimate trade without creating unnecessary administrative burdens.
The current EU legislation on drug precursors - Regulation (EC) No 273/2004 (intra-community market) and Council Regulation (EC) No 111/2005 (external trade) - lays down harmonised degrees of control of operators and of trade transactions depending on the sensitivity of the drug precursors concerned, building on the key principle of partnership between authorities and operators in identifying diversion attempts.