Long way to make good changes in the Law

Ministry of Health of Serbia proposed changes to the Law on psychoactive controlled substances at the end of 2016. Very limited proposal and the public debate which was organised during 4 weeks of festive days caused serious concern among civil society organisations in Serbia. DPNSEE with two member organisations Prevent and Re Generacija, along with three other partner organisations, made large number of comments and proposals to improve the draft.

Unfortunately, there were no reply from the Ministry for more than 9 months. Finally, with the support of the Office for Cooperation with Civil Society, a meeting was organised on 4 October to discuss our contribution. Representatives from the Ministry of Health, Office for Cooperation with Civil Society, Office for combating drug abuse and Ministry of Interior met with the aim to present civil society organisations comments and proposals and exchange about which of them should be incorporated into the next version of the draft.

Although we were prepared for qualified discussion about our proposals, it turned out that the Working group in the Ministry of Health already prepared the next draft and that some of our proposals were accepted. Despite the requests to specify which proposals were accepted and which not and why, the representatives of the Ministry remained on the position that it will be possible only when this new version will be sent for the next round of consultations.

The meeting had a limited success because we presented comprehensive and qualified approach to dealing with legislation and stayed on our positions regarding very important issues related to drugs: need to ensure involvement of civil society organisations in all issues related to drug use, wider set of services of the early warning system that is to be established (including field work and consulting), right to bring samples of substances for checking, wider distribution of naloxone around the country, use of language that will not stigmatise people who use drugs, respecting the right to information and protection of sensitive information, better coordination of all the stakeholders, especially reporting about drugs, etc. The proposed amendments to the Law still have to pass a few levels to come to the Parliament and we are ready to keep advocating for a better Law.

A promising visit to challenging area

Representatives of the Drug policy network South East Europe visited Kosovo from 29 to 30 August 2016. The delegation included Thanasis Apostolou, Chairman of the Board, Milutin Milošević, Executive Director and Julijana Daskalov, Financial officer.

Purpose of the visit was to inform a broader public about developments in drug policy in the European Union and worldwide. The overall objective of these public meetings is to involve civil society in the decision making process about drug policy. Besides, that aim was to present DPNSEE to the Kosovo society and build strong relationships with the authorities and exploring possibilities with the authorities, institutions and services.


 Sharing with the colleagues from Labyrinth

The delegation was warmly welcomed by the organisation Labyrinth, which since 2002 has two sectors: prevention sector which deals with the prevention of drug abuse and infectious diseases associated to injecting drugs, such as HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C; and treatment sector which provides psycho-medical treatment for people addicted to drugs. There are three multidisciplinary centres functioning under the umbrella of NGO Labyrinth: Labyrinth Centre in Prishtina and its branches in Gjilan and Prizren. Visit to the centre in Prishtina and meeting drug users and committed volunteers working with them was an informative but also emotional experience. Labyrinth expressed their will to join the Drug Policy Network South East Europe.The key point of the visit was the meeting in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which is the coordinative body for all the actions in the scope of drug policy. The Deputy Minister Mr Nehat Mustafa and his competent team gathered representatives of health institutions and CSOs with whom the delegation had a very open and inspirational exchange. The approach they took includes close cooperation of authorities, experts and civil society.

Meeting with the Foundation Together, a local non-governmental organization based in Prishtina which professionally addresses psycho social issues experienced by adolescents to protect and improve their well-being showed the potential for cooperation, especially on research activities and opinion polls on how social change and transition affect the general population and young people.

The delegation also met two organisations working in the enclaves with Serbian population on Kosovo. The Centre for peace and tolerance, based in Gračanica and Prishtina, is large civil society organisations working on community issues. They offered to support communication through the network of local organisations they support and join cooperative projects. Organisation “Mission of people Zvečan” since 2001 actively participates in development of civil society, promotion of civil and cultural values through work with youth, which is a good potential for future cooperation on the issues tackling young people.

The visit opened new potential for including Kosovar organisations and society in regional cooperation.