New issues for monitoring

Every year in autumn, The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) organises Reitox meeting – the European information network on drugs and drug addiction. The 8th Extended Reitox network meeting was held on 12 November in the EMCDDA premises in Lisbon, Portugal. It brought together representatives from circa 50 countries, including: the Heads of the 30 Reitox national focal points from the 28 EU Member States, Norway and Turkey; representatives from the 6 Western Balkan countries covered by the European Instrument for Pre-Accession Technical assistance project (IPA7) and representatives from 15 European Neighbouring Policy area countries.

This year’s meeting will be dedicated to the topic ‘New issues for monitoring’. The agenda included issues like Drug policy debates: how routine monitoring data used?, Introduction on new proposal of the UNODC Annual Reports Questionnaire (ARQ) and Cannabis: latest developments.

During the session on Prevention of infectious diseases, DPNSEE Executive Director Milutin Milošević presented Situation in the Western Balkan countries. Besides presenting the Network and briefly describing the type of data that are available to us, a detailed view on the situation in the Western Balkan countries was given including prevalence of HIV, HCV, HBV among people who inject drugs, provision of harm reduction services and access to treatment, barriers and challenges and relevant policies in the region.

Participation in the Reitox meeting was an excellent opportunity to present the potential of the Network for partnership and discuss modalities for further cooperation with EMCDDA and national drug agencies

EU drugs agency and the Republic of Albania strengthen their cooperation

The Director of the The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) Alexis Goosdeel and Albanian Deputy Minister of the Interior Besfort Lamallari and Deputy Minister of Health and Social Protection Mira Rakacolli signed the document of the agreement to cooperate more actively on monitoring the drug phenomenon in future. The signing ceremony took place at the Delegation of the European Union to the International Organisations in Vienna, hosted by EU Ambassador Didier Lenoir, and in the presence of Dimitris Avramopoulos, European Commissioner responsible for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship.

The Working Arrangement originates in a request from the Albanian Ministry of the Interior to the EMCDDA Director in 2017 and follows the seal of approval of the European Commission and EMCDDA Management Board. While the agency has signed similar agreements with other third countries, this is the first request of its kind from the Western Balkans. The new agreement provides for the exchange of expertise between the entities concerned and will contribute to developing drug data-collection and reporting capacity in the country.

Dimitris Avramopoulos, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship in the European Commission, emphasised that “the Agreement will strengthen the cooperation to develop the right common policies to address drug trafficking in our regions and will pave the way for similar arrangements in the Western Balkans.”

emcdda

The EMCDDA began its cooperation with Albania in 2007 in the framework of EU-funded technical assistance projects designed to prepare Western Balkan countries for accession to the EU (and for participation in the work of the EMCDDA and its Reitox network. The EMCDDA and Albania are currently working together to consolidate Albania’s capacity to monitor the drug phenomenon through the use of evidence-based tools and knowledge built and promoted within the EU. They also exchange data on new psychoactive substances as well as expertise on establishing a national early-warning system.

While no formal national drug observatory has yet been established in Albania, along the lines of a Reitox national focal point, the EMCDDA has developed close working relations with the Ministry of the Interior and with the Institute of Public Health of the Ministry of Health and Social Protection. This cooperation led to the financing of the first national general population survey on drugs in Albania in 2014 as well as the production of a Country Drug Report for Albania in 2017 following EMCDDA guidelines.

Albania is one of six candidate and potential candidate countries to the EU currently receiving assistance under the EMCDDA IPA 6 project, which kicked off in July 2017 and will run until June 2019.

European information network on drugs and drug addiction

Reitox – the European information network on drugs and drug addiction – was set up by the European
Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) in 1993 and is composed of 30 national
monitoring centres or national focal points (NFPs) in the 28 EU Member States, Turkey and Norway, as well as a focal point at the European Commission. The NFPs, from which the agency draws the bulk of its data, collect and analyse national information on drugs, drawing on various sectors including health, justice and law enforcement.

Representatives of candidate, potential candidate and neighbouring countries of the EU joined members of
the EMCDDA’s Reitox network in Lisbon on Tuesday 22 November 2016 for the kick-off of the agency’s fifth Reitox week. The purpose of this annual event was to broaden the scope of regular Reitox meetings,
underline the importance of the EU drug monitoring model and add impetus to the agency’s technical
cooperation with countries outside the EU.

The 2016 Reitox week (21–25 November) united 38 nations including the current 30 members of the
network and a number of beneficiary countries of the European Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance
(IPA) and the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP).

The Reitox week encompasses three events: international cooperation project-related meetings; a Reitox
‘extended network’ meeting (this year focusing on ‘Drugs and recreational settings’) and the regular Heads
of focal point meeting. During the extended meeting, experts and researchers from 10 countries (Belgium,
Denmark, Spain, Croatia, Hungary, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia and Serbia) shared available data on substance use in open-air music festivals and other recreational and nightlife settings. In particular, they looked at the experiences and challenges faced by festival organisers and at existing interventions targeting the consequences of substance use in this context. A special focus was placed on prevention strategies and on the evaluation of their effectiveness.

Alexis Goosdeel, EMCDDA Director, said: “With this meeting, we aim to gain a deeper understanding of the dimension of problems associated with substance use in specific recreational settings, such as open-air
music festivals and nightlife venues. Our discussions this week will help us shed light on the potential, yet
often underused, role of local regulators, party organisers and parents organisations in reducing
substance-use-related problems in these settings. They will also help EU and partner countries identify
possible steps towards implementing evidence-based interventions to tackle this issue”.

Irena Molnar, representative of Drug Policy Network South East Europe delivered the speech “The culture
of substance use: New Psychoactive Substances in Serbia and SEE region”, focusing on setting in which
psychoactive substances are use in recreational setting. She emphasised that the National and regional
wide researches and advocacy for nightlife outreach harm reduction programs and recreational setting in
general should be conducted, so we can be aware of the situation specifics we are dealing with in all of the
countries in the SEE region. Countries of SEE that are in period of accession to EU (and those already
involved) should look and learn from the examples of a good practices that exist around the Europe and
start supporting implementation of harm reduction programs for partygoers. Sharing information on safety, offering young people and partygoers information on health risks so that they can make an informed decisions regarding their drug and alcohol use should be essential.