Ireland Proposes the "Drug War" to be European Union Priority, Germany Joins France in Criticizing the Netherlands
The Irish government has declared the "drug war" as one of its major priorities during its six- month term in the presidency of the European Union ("Government Declares War on Illegal Drugs," The European, July/August 1996, p. 7; Victor Smart and Saskia Sissons, "Dublin's war on crime tests partners' unity," The European, July/August 1996 p.1).
Dick Spring, the Tanaiste (Irish deputy premier) and Ireland's minister of foreign affairs, said the scourge of drug-related crimes will be a top priority during Ireland's stint in the presidency, which began July 1. "We need to ensure improved co-operation between member states in the international struggle against drugs and organized crime," Spring said. "Among the issues to be addressed are the harmonization of laws against consumption and illicit trafficking in drugs." Ireland seeks to commit each European Union (EU) nation to impose the stiffest sentences for drug trafficking offenses that their national law allows. One Dublin proposal is the payment of subsidies to drug producing states to discourage farmers from planting illegal plants. At a meeting in Bangkok in March, Gay Mitchell, the European Affairs Minister in Dublin, proposed using spy satellites to police areas where illegal crops are being grown.
Dublin's illegal drug policy proposal treads heavily on the touchy issue of national sovereignty in the EU. Particularly angered were the Netherlands, whose liberal drug policy has come under attack, and sovereignty-conscious Britain. Observers say the national veto is the principal obstacle to the proposal.
The idea was originally put on the formal agenda in December 1995 by French President Jacques Chirac. Chirac proposed the idea while criticizing the Dutch for their lenient policy on drug users. A few months later, the Germans joined the French in insisting that the Netherlands abandon its permissive drug policy. Holland's tolerance of soft drugs and its harm reduction policy were "the core of the problem," according to Eduard Lintner, Germany's secretary of state in charge of drug policy. Speaking at an international conference on drugs and organized crime, Lintner said, "When such a permissive drugs policy stands alone, it has negative consequences for neighboring countries. In 1995, 98.5 percent of all ecstasy, 98.5 percent of cannabis and 93.2 percent of LSD that made its way into Germany came from the Netherlands" (Saskia Sissons, "Liberal Drug Policy Angers EU Neighbors," The European, July/August 1996, p. 21).