New legislation grants Europe stronger powers to tackle current and future drug problems

EMCDDA begins one-year transition period to prepare for new future

New legislation published today grants Europe stronger powers to tackle current and future drug problems. The new Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council, revises the mandate of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), in order to keep pace with an ever more complex and rapidly changing drug phenomenon.

The Regulation, appearing in today’s Official Journal of the European Union, will enter into force tomorrow, setting the EMCDDA on a one-year transition course to prepare to implement the new mandate. The EMCDDA will become the European Union Drugs Agency (EUDA) on 2 July 2024, the day on which the regulation enters into application.

The EMCDDA was established in 1993 to monitor the drug phenomenon and harmonise and standardise data. However, in recent years, there has been an increasing disconnect between the complexity and developments of today’s drug phenomenon and the provision of the current mandate. With a more proactive remit, adapted to the current reality, the new EUDA will be better equipped to support the EU and its Member States in addressing emerging issues in this field. This will take place in three key areas: monitoring, preparedness and competence development for better interventions.

The new legislation has its roots in a proposal from the European Commission on 12 January 2022, which called for a stronger mandate for the agency that would empower it to perform the tasks needed to address current and future challenges related to illicit drugs. The European Parliament and the Council of the EU adopted the act this month, according to the EU ordinary legislative procedure (1).

The collection, analysis and dissemination of data will continue to be a key task of the EUDA. The new agency will also:

  • develop threat assessment capabilities in the areas of health and security, thereby increasing EU preparedness to identify and react to these new threats;
  • issue alerts, via a new European drug alert system, when high-risk substances appear on the market (complementing national alert systems and the EU Early Warning System on new psychoactive substances);
  • monitor and address poly-substance use, which is becoming increasingly common and may have detrimental health effects;
  • set up a network of forensic and toxicological laboratories to foster information exchange on new trends and developments and train national forensic drug experts;
  • develop and promote evidence-based interventions and best practices;
  • provide research and support, both on health-related issues and on drug markets and drug supply;
  • support the independent evaluation and development of evidence-based policies;   
  • play a stronger international role and support the EU in drug policy at multilateral level;
  • reinforce the role of the national focal points to ensure that Member States are able to provide relevant drug-related data to the agency.

Chair of the EMCDDA Management Board Franz Pietsch said: ‘Today’s legislation represents an important milestone in improving how Europe tackles present and future challenges in the drugs field. We are confident that, from 2024, the European Union Drugs Agency, with its new fit-for-purpose mission, will provide better support to European and Member States’ policymakers and professionals in the drugs field in addressing the causes and consequences of drug use. We convey our sincerest thanks to the European Commission for having launched the legislative proposal, and to the French, Czech and Swedish Presidencies of the Council of the EU, along with the European Parliament, who all worked so swiftly towards its adoption’.  

EMCDDA Director Alexis Goosdeel said: ‘Over the last 30 years, we have seen revolutionary changes in the extent and nature of the drug phenomenon and, today, we witness growing diversity in drug supply and use in Europe. With the new mandate, we will support the EU and its Member States in addressing this situation and will strengthen the EU's preparedness. To achieve this, we will provide four service categories: anticipating new and future challenges; alerting on emerging risks and drug-related threats; assessing needs and available responses; and evaluating and disseminating new knowledge and best practice. We are ready to take on this endeavour and look forward to seeing you in a year to launch our new agency.’