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Drug Policy Fuels Feud Between France and the Netherlands


May 1996

In protest of the Netherlands' drug policy, France has refused to follow an international agreement and open its borders with Luxembourg and Belgium ("Paris Opens Borders, a Bit," International Herald Tribune, March 26, 1996, p. 5; "The Dutch View on Drugs," International Herald Tribune, April 9, 1996, p. 5; "French MPs Call for Boycott of Dutch Goods," The Netherlander, April 20-26, 1996, p. 4).

France did open its borders with Spain and Germany under the Schengen agreement, which is designed to allow free movement of persons throughout Europe. France accused the Netherlands of facilitating drug trafficking in Europe and promoting drug abuse. It said that much of the drugs in France come in through the Netherlands. France also said many of its residents, especially those in the northern regions, travel to the Netherlands to use drugs.

Prime Minister Wim Kok of the Netherlands said the decision would sour all relations between the two countries. Kok said he took particular offense to a report released by French Senate member Paul Masson that described the Netherlands as a "narco state." Members of the National Assembly and Senate have asked for residents of France to boycott products from the Netherlands to express objection to that country's drug laws.

In an interview with the International Herald Tribune, Kok said the Netherlands is taking steps in response to criticism from the European community, but that much of the criticism is unwarranted. "I won't accept getting raked over the coals by France, just because our laws are different," he said. "But I am not looking for a confrontation with [French] President Chirac." Kok pointed to the Dutch Parliament's recent vote to limit the number of coffee shops selling cannabis and to reduce the amount of cannabis sold from 30 grams to 5 grams per person.