Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Drug Trafficking

Delivered in Plenary 24th April of the EP Latin American Conference in Valparaiso, Chile

Mr. President, Fellow legislators

I too have considerable specialist experience as a former doctor working in an inner city which I now represent – London – in the treatment and rehabilitation or drug addiction, which sadly has been rising inexorably for some years now in inner cities.  I have to take issue with my Dutch Liberal colleague Sanders-Tenholte on the ultra-permissive model currently practiced in Holland.  We in the EU are only too aware that the Dutch model has resulted in Amsterdam becoming a centre for criminal hard drug dealing and a haven for drug hippy culture. Holland, however well intentioned its motives, is a country which has also de facto legalised street prostitution, pornography and most controversially last month it legalised euthanasia, to the disgust and horror of many European citizens and many of us in the European Parliament have condemned this move. 

Several thousand Dutch citizens were legally killed last year by the Dutch medical profession without valid consent and I hope that neither my country, or any of yours in Latin America, goes down the Dutch path of becoming a Mecca for international decadence and erosion of our common traditional ethics and Judeo-Christian values.  I believe that punishing and criminalizing drug users with harsh measures is not good politics and a humane approach is necessary.  Nevertheless, the brief misguided experiment in Zurich, Switzerland where hard drugs were legally tolerated in a central city park was a fiasco with deaths and shoot-outs between criminal gangs and the project was condemned internationally.

I believe that Holland is violating the UN Narcotics Convention by legalising even soft drugs, although I personally support a de facto limited decriminalisation, but not legalisation, for possession of small quantities of soft drugs as practiced in most EU countries, including my own, but reserve the right for the authorities to always prosecute at their discretion if there is a public interest – i.e. the police believe the user to also be a dealer, or corrupting minors by passing on marijuana to others.  I believe that the State should send a strong signal to young people that even marijuana consumption is undesirable and unnecessary as part of growing up and risks hallucinations, depression, apathy and withdrawal from active social engagement and I believe that some users do escalate from soft to hard drugs over time. 

The way forward is a continued fight by co-operating law-enforcement agencies against drug trafficking, but also education of the dangers to health directed at young people in particular.  In my country we have also recently introduced draconian laws successfully which result in confiscation of all the assets of convicted drug dealers – even beyond the proven profits from the dealing – which hits organised crime badly in their pockets

We in the UK are also engaged in a hard drug minimal harm programme with, for instance, needle exchange for heroin addicts, regular HIV testing and general medical health checks and methadone withdrawal programmes with a final goal in mind of abstention for all but the most chronic cases. 

None of us in the political class has a solution for this tragic problem but I am only too aware of the severity of the effects this has in the Andean countries who are in many ways victims of the negative cycle in which they are dependent on the earnings of the cocaine producers, which results in corruption in the institutions of the State and a spiral of violence and a huge consumption of international resources devoted to its eradication, and results in tragic events like the shooting down and innocent deaths of a mother and child of a civilian aircraft by the Peruvian air force this week.  Certainly, labelling or blaming Latin America for the drug problem as producers is frankly insulting and a scapegoating of the problem whose roots are far wider. The drug problem, common to all societies, is one that won’t go away but this debate and exchange of views to-day is a helpful way of reaching some sort of consensus in where the resources should be allocated in future to combat this universal human scourge.