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The distinctively-shaped leaves of the cannabis plant © loflo69, fotolia

Organised crime groups make spectacular profits on illicit drug trafficking. The EU illicit drugs market generates an estimated income for criminals of up to €70 billion every year. The EU is taking determined steps to clamp down on the production and trafficking of drugs.

EU countries work ever closer together, with the support of the Commission and Europol, to disrupt drug trafficking.

Law enforcement agencies across the EU cooperate in the fight against drug production and trafficking. They carry out joint investigations, joint customs operations and take part in international operations to prevent the diversion of chemical substances used to manufacture drugs (known as drug precursors).

Europol plays an important role by providing analytical and operational assistance to national law enforcement agencies.

To make sure that there is no safe haven for drug traffickers in the EU, the EU countries have developed a common approach to drug trafficking offences. The Framework Decision on drug trafficking pdf български (bg)czech (cs)dansk (da)Deutsch (de)eesti (et)ελληνικά (el)español (es)Français (fr)Gaeilge (ga)italiano (it)latviešu (lv)lietuvių (lt)magyar (hu)Malti (mt)Nederlands (nl)polski (pl)português (pt)română (ro)slovenčina (sk)slovenščina (sl)suomi (fi)svenska (sv) provides an EU definition of drug trafficking offences and establishes minimum rules on sanctions.

The assessment of the Framework Decision pdf български (bg)czech (cs)dansk (da)Deutsch (de)eesti (et)ελληνικά (el)español (es)Français (fr)Gaeilge (ga)italiano (it)latviešu (lv)lietuvių (lt)magyar (hu)Malti (mt)Nederlands (nl)polski (pl)português (pt)română (ro)slovenčina (sk)slovenščina (sl)suomi (fi)svenska (sv) that the Commission conducted in 2009 showed that the implementation of this EU instrument has not been completely satisfactory, leading to little progress in the alignment of national measures on the fight against drug trafficking. The results of a more comprehensive study on the Framework Decisionpdf(2 MB) Choose translations of the previous link , commissioned by the Commission and concluded in 2013, confirmed the findings of the previous assessment as regards the implementation and impacts of the EU instrument and looked at possible ways of strengthening future EU action pdf(2 MB) Choose translations of the previous link in this area.

In recent years, EU countries have launched several joint initiatives to address cocaine trafficking. These include the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre - Narcotics (MAOC-N) and the Centre de coordination pour la lutte anti-drogue en Méditerranée (CeCLAD - M), which coordinate anti-drugs operations in the Atlantic and Mediterranean.

EU policy cycle for organised and serious international crime

In October 2010, the Standing Committee on Operational Cooperation on Internal Security (COSI) agreed to establish an EU policy cycle for organised and serious international crime. The policy cycle provides the framework enabling  the Member States to address priority cross-border crime, under the leadership of one of them ("driver"), with the support of Europol, other EU agencies, the Commission and the Council. The biennial threat assessment produced by Europol (SOCTA), based on contributions from EU countries, enables them to select the priorities areas on which to focus. 

The first short cycle 2011–2013 was established as a learning phase and focused on eight crime priorities. Four of them were drug-related: West Africa, Western Balkans, Synthetic drugs and Container smuggling.

The full four-year policy cycle covering the period from 2014 to 2017 focuses on nine priorities, two of which are drug-related: cocaine/heroin and synthetic drugs.

Strategic goals for each of the priorities are summarised in Multi-Annual Strategic Plans. Annual Operational Action Plans contain lists of concrete actions, which are implemented via the so-called EMPACT (European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats) projects.

EU competences

The EU competence in the area of drug supply reduction includes:

The Commission has signed bilateral agreements Choose translations of the previous link  on drug precursors with certain countries, to prevent the diversion of chemicals for use in the illicit manufacture of narcotic drugs.