Greek NGOs ask the immediate replacement of the existing health provision 39a and the amendment of the legal framework on the control of infectious diseases

The NGOs POSITIVE VOICE - CENTRE FOR LIFE- PRAKSIS - Association of of people in therapy by OKANA - Association DIOGENIS and PROMETHEUS express in a letter to deputy Minister of Health Zetta Makri their satisfaction for signing the " Action Plan to address the HIV / AIDS epidemic among intravenous drug users in the centre of Athens and throughout Greece ". They also highlight some points that , in their opinion , need to be settled in order to properly implement the plan. The organizations argue that the objectives to be achieved are unclear, which makes them non- measurable by the evaluation and propose to describe the specific objectives more clearly. The plan should include a timetable for implementation of the proposed actions and also a budget as has been proposed by the committee of coordination and action . The Non Governmental organizations reiterate their criticism to the Hellenic Center for Disease Control & Prevention (HCDCP)  for its cooperation during the operations for mandatory  HIV  tests and violations of privacy principles and calls the deputy minister to put pressure on the board of HCDCP to meet more adequate the transparency rules . The NGOs note that the Ministry of Health will significantly  help to avoid the mistakes of the past, when it will decide to replace immediately the existing health provision 39a and will amend the legal framework for the control of infectious diseases . If these changes are not accepted the NGOs have serious doubts whether the coordination and the action plan itself will succeed to avoid serious mistakes of the past .

more: Letter of the NGOs (in Greek)

 

Briefing paper: The HIV epidemic among injecting drug users in Greece during the economic crisis

The Association Diogenis Initiative for drug policy dialogue in South East Europe published the briefing paper "The HIV epidemic among injecting drug users in Greece during the economic crisis".  At the opening of the International Drug Policy Dialogue which took place recently in Athens, the president of Diogenis Association has handed over to the representative of the Greek National Drugs Coordinator the first copy of the briefing paper, requesting the active contribution of the Drugs coordinator for the implementation of the proposals contained in the paper.

The briefing Paper lists a brief history of the progress and the efforts to address this serious public health and human rights issue, from 2011 until today . It lists opinions of the competent state authorities and the institutions engaged in everyday practice by offering services to intravenous drug users. It refers to the public debate about the causes of the outbreak of HIV between the competent state authorities and the services that monitor this epidemiological phenomenon. Reference is made also to the notorious ministerial health provision 39a on the basis of which women found in the streets have been arrested, have been subjected to tests for HIV in police departments, their personal data were posted on the website of the Greek police and subsequently, made public by the mass media. It then describes the involvement of International and Greek organizations that made specific recommendations in order to tackle the epidemic. Based on the experience of the past years, the briefing paper proposes the immediate implementation of the proposals made and reports that the Greek National Strategy and Action Plan on drugs which is going to be developed soon, should include proposals of  the existing European Drug Strategy and Action Plan, the results of the consultations with all stakeholders and civic society organizations  and most importantly  the commitment of the Prime Minister and the minister of Finance  to accompany   the Strategy and Action Plan with the necessary resources for its implementation.

Read More Briefing Paper

Briefing Paper "Trends and developments in Drug Legislation in South Eastern Europe"

Diogenis Association and the Transnational Institute published recently the briefing paper on "Trends and developments in Drug Legislation in South Eastern Europe" informing about  the current status of drug laws in the South Eastern European states, dilemma's that the countries  in de region are facing with regard to implementation of the current drug laws and the discussion that is taking place on drug policy reform.

This paper particularly attempts to describe some of the topics included in the broader field of drug law; topics that require further processing by governments and competent authorities, and call for new, and perhaps more dynamic decisions. Moreover, it summarizes and articulates ideas and proposals discussed between field experts, policy makers and specialists from the South East European countries during discussions that took place in an seminar organised by Diogenis Association.

The paper concludes with recommendations for future policy, pointing out that issues like the decriminalisation of drug possession for personal use and the inclusion of harm reduction in the legislation are crucial for the further development of drug policy in the region.

The decriminalization of Drug Possession for personal uese is -as in most countries in the world- an issue that is heavily debated in South East Europe. In general, SEE countries could be described as indecisive although it is recognised that this is an extremely crucial issue for the further development of drug policy, since the way that drug users are approached  deeply affects their lenient or harsh treatment. The current practice concerning drug possession for personal use, must be a priority in the future agenda of the countries of the region, in order to implement a just and humane policy and resolve chronic problems of the criminal justice and the penitentiary system.

Legislation on Harm reduction is weak or nonexistent in many countries of the region. The shift of interest towards harm reduction is a particularly critical parameter and it will greatly influence developments in drug policy in South Eastern Europe, especially under the effect of the wider relevant European policy. However, under the burden of the economic crisis and despite a few positive steps, harm reduction policy –along with the health issue in general, medical & pharmaceutical care and other social benefits– is pushed in the margins of central policy, while the severe reduction of funds for treatment programs seems to already have a dramatic impact. Most of the SE European countries now face an unpredictable future on financing harm reduction programs, as many are (or were) sponsored by the Global Fund, while most are no longer eligible to receive new funding.

The briefing paper is available in three languages.

For more see: Briefing paper Trends and Developments in Drug Legislation In SEE

Briefing paper EL Translation

Briefing paper BiH Translation

Report Drug Policy Dialogue in South Eastern Europe,Kalampaka 21-23 June 2013

The Association Diogenis published the report of the Drug Policy Dialogue that has been held in Kalampaka from 21-23 June 2013. The report includes a summary of the presentations and the discussions of the participants. Main topics of debate were the developments in drug legislation with special reference to Greece, which recently approved the new law on addictive substances and Croatia that has decided to decriminalise the use and possession of small quantities for personal use. During this session the volume published by Diogenis on Drug Policy and Drug Legislation in South East Europe has been presented . The representative of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) referred to the new Drug Strategy of the European Union (2013-2020) and the EU Action Plan (2103-2016). Another topic of discussion was the Action Plan between the European Union and the countries of the Western Balkans, and especially the importance of the involvement of civil society in shaping drug policy in South Eastern Europe. The representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, based in Tirana, presented the United Nations Programme for Combating Drugs in the region of SE Europe. An extensive discussion took place on the difficulties -because of the economic crisis- that agencies and organizations providing services to dependent people are confronted with. The participation of representatives of the organization of people in treatment by OKANA was essential in this session as  they had the opportunity to express their views on problematic situations, as the waiting lists, and other matters related to services.

Read more: Report Drug Policy Dialogue, 21-23 June 2013, Kalampaka

Report Expert Seminar Drug Legislation in South East Europe, 4-5 April 2013, Thessaloniki, Greece

The expert seminar on "Developments and trends in Drug Legislation in South East Europe" has been held in Thessaloniki, Greece on April 4th and 5th, 2013. The aim of the seminar was to exchange opinions, experiences and ideas among policy officials, civil servants, academic researchers, and non-governmental experts in the field of illicit drugs and evaluate recent initiatives on drug control legislation in South East Europe (SEE). The seminar aimed also to substantiate concrete recommendations and to facilitate civil society participation in policy making at the national and regional level. Experts and researchers from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Germany, Greece, Italy, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, and Slovenia, as well as an expert from EMCDDA, participated at the expert seminar.The program of the seminar consisted of three sessions and of general discussion on developments trends in drug policy in South East Europe.

Read More: Report_Expert_Seminar_4-5_April_2013_Thessaloniki_Greece

Open letter of the Drug Policy Network in SEE to the Joint Ministerial Forum of ministers of the EU and the countries of  the Western Balkans.

The Joint ministerial Forum of Ministers of Justice and Home affairs of the EU and the countries of the Western Balkans, adopted  on 19-20 December 2013, in Budva, Montenegro a Joint Declaration on enhancing cooperation on drugs and renew the commitments of the EU-Western Balkans Action plan on drugs (2009-2013). The Action plan on Drugs between the EU and the countries in the Western Balkans has been adopted during the Greek Presidency of the EU by the Council of the European Union in June 2003. The action plan aimed  at creating a cohesive framework for cooperation between the EU, the candidate Member States and the Western Balkan States, to implement a number of EU programs on strengthening security and  stability in the region. In June 2008, the European Council reaffirmed its full support for the European perspective of the Western Balkans. The European Commission and the member states agreed to update the Action plan and in July 2009 the Council approved  the new Action Plan 2009-2013. Among others, this plan prioritised the participation of civil society in policy making and other activities especially in the field of Demand reduction.
The Drug Policy Network in South East Europe where 15 organisations of the 10 countries in the region are cooperating, point out in their Open letter to the ministers that in assessing  the plan's actual implementation of the past four years little has been done in the area of drug demand reduction.  "There is hardly anything to be found in the reports on the implementation of this part of the work plan" note the Network organisations; they express their concern  about this  and propose to actively co-operate with the EU and the Western Balkan countries to seek ways to implement the activities on demand reduction described in the work plan.
The Network organisations are reminding the ministers that they have committed themselves  to "support programmes and campaigns aimed at informing on the risk of drugs and raising public awareness, including by projects which involve the civil society" and conclude that they  are willing to co-operate with the EU and the Western Balkan countries to implement activities of the Work plan and they would appreciate an invitation from the EU and the Western Balkan Countries to mutually explore possibilities of future co-operation.
Read more: Open Letter to the Joint Ministerial Forum

Drug policy and drug legislation in South East Europe. Publication of the Diogenis Association

The Association Diogenis, issued a volume containing reports of ten countries of the South East European Region on drug policy and drug legislation. The volume was published by the publishing house "Legal Library"  in Athens. The country reports are published separately on this website. The volume has been issued in the framework of the Project "Drug Law Reform in South East Europe"

The reports per country describe the current National Strategy on Drugs, the national substantive criminal law, the national drug laws and institutions, Drug law enforcement in practice, sentencing levels and the prison situation, initiatives  for drug law reform undertaken by the government(s) and/or parliament(s)  in recent years and proposals and recommendations for further research and advocacy work.

The Association Diogenis aims to promote policies based on respect for human rights, scientific evidence and best practices which would provide a framework for a more balanced approach and will result in a more effective policy and practice. A major concern of the activities is to encourage open debate on drug policy reform and raise public awareness regarding the current drug policies, their ineffectiveness and their adverse consequences for individuals and society.

The project "Drug Law Reform in South East Europe" and the other activities of the Diogenis Association are an effort to connect developments and initiatives in the SEE region with the European Unionʼs Drug Strategy and Action Plan as well as with global developments on Drug Policy.

After several decades of implementation of the current international drug control system, there is worldwide a sense of urgency to adjust the system, correct the aspects that cause adverse consequences and make it more effective. Open dialogue with the relevant authorities responsible for Drug Policy is essential in the search for more humane and effective Drug Policies and practice. The critical voices of civil society organisations such as the NGOs must be seen as a complementary contribution to the Drug Policy debate. Our cooperation with research institutes and universities is growing and there is mutual appreciation of our activities. The combination of the NGOs practical experience in the field and the scientific insights of researchers is a valuable contribution to the drug policy debate. It is up to the policy makers and governments to make use of proposals and recommendations and incorporate suggestions in Strategic choices and Legislation.

Read more: Drug Policy and Drug Legislation in South East Europe

Country reports: ALBANIA; BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA; BULGARIA, CROATIA: FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA, GREECE, MONTENEGRO, ROMANIA; SERBIA; SLOVENIA

Informal Drug Policy Dialogue in South East Europe, Kalampaka 21 and 22 June 2013

 

The Regional Informal Drug Policy Dialogue in South East Europe organised by the Association Diogenis, has been held in Kalampaka, Greece from 20-23 June 20-23. At the dialogue participated 35 representatives of non-governmental organizations, academics, representatives from competent bodies responsible for the policy on drugs and professionals in the field of drugs, from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Greece, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia. At the dialogue participated also representatives of the "Correlation" European Harm Reduction Network, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and of the United Nations Regional Office of on Drugs and Crime in Tirana, Albania. 

The Dialogue was funded by the European Commission and the Open Society Foundations, aiming at an open and wide-ranging exchange of views and experiences among participants and included five sessions on drug policy in South East  Europe. The first session discussed developments in drug legislation of the countries of SE Europe. An overview of the new law on addictive substances recently adopted and entered into force in Greece was presented, followed by a presentation of the common general characteristics of drug policy and drug legislation in the countries of Europe, in view of the recent publication issued by Association Diogenis in the framework of the Drug Law Reform Project in SE Europe. The second session was devoted to the new European Strategy (2013-2020) and the new Action Plan for the period 2013-2016. The third session discussed the Action Plan on Drugs between the European Commission and the Western Balkans. In the fourth session, the discussion moved around services on Harm Reduction and the activities of NGOs in South East Europe. In the fifth session, the possibilities of NGOs to develop joint initiatives in the wider Balkan region have been examined The report on the Dialogue will be published soon.

  

The new Law on addictive substances passed by the Greek Parliament and has been published in the Government Gazette.

On March 12, 2013  the Greek parliament voted in favour of the Act on Addictive Substances and published it in the Government Gazette (No Sheet 74 of 20 March 2013). The same law entitled "Code on Drugs" was discussed in the standing parliamentary committee of the House beginning of 2012, but it was not submitted for voting in Parliament because of disagreements among the political parties that supported the then government.The new law has been modified by the new government in which the parties New Democracy, PASOK and Democratic left are participating.

In matters of principle there has been a fundamental change. This change maintains the criminalization of drug use as well as possession and commission of drugs for personal use by any means. The legislative committee appointed  by the government to prepare the draft law had proposed the decriminalisation of use. But the political parties that support the government and especially the conservative liberal party of New Democracy -the largest party of the coalition government- took a very firm stance that if decriminalisation would be part of the law they would vote against the bill. The two other coalition parties (PASOK and Democratic Left) compromised and ultimately the law was passed. The main points of the reform of the Code of Laws on Drugs are:

 

Strict law enforcement on serious and organized forms of trafficking, but with careful separation of the lightest cases; distinction  and classification of such crimes in order to avoid disproportionately severe or favourite sentences; facilitation of effective implementation of rehabilitation measures (physical and psychological) instead of imprisonment; maintenance of both criminalization of drug use and possession and by any means commission of drugs for personal use. The law systematizes regulations concerning authorities for planning, coordination and implementation of drug policy. More specific objectives are ..

 Read more

The 9th meeting  of Informal Drug Policy Dialogue took place in Warsaw on 15 and 16 of February 2013

     

 

The ninth meeting of the Informal Drug Policy Dialogue series, organised by the Transnational Institute (TNI) and Association Diogenis, took place in Warsaw, Poland, gathering over 35 NGO representatives, academics, policy makers and practitioners. The Dialogue comprised five major sessions on drug policy. During the first session, participants discussed the current state of drug policy in Poland. The Criminal Code in Poland has been revised in 2011 to allow for diversion mechanisms to be established in order to divert people who use drugs away from prison and into treatment. Although many issues remain regarding Polish drug policy, this reform is a positive development in the country. It is a substantial investment in the social (re) integration of  drug dependent individuals and has also economic benefits, because imprisonment is more expensive compared to treatment programs.The second session focused on the new European Union (EU) Drug Strategy for 2013-2020 and its Action Plan for 2013-2016. During the third session , participants discussed cannabis policy reform movements worldwide, with a special focus on the legal regulation of cannabis markets in US states Colorado and Washington and the Uruguayan bill on cannabis policy. Discussions also covered cannabis policy and possibilities for reform in Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden and Poland. In the following session, participants shared their experience and expertise on different models of decriminalisation, with a specific focus on Poland, Italy and the Czech Republic. The final session of the Dialogue provided updates on the 56th Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), which was held from 11th to 15th March 2013 in Vienna, Austria.

Read more in the report of the dialogue

American states, including the U.S., take the initiative to discuss drug policy change.

The Organisation of American States (OAS) published some days ago two important reports about the future of drug policy. It is the first time since 1961 when the UN member states adopted the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, that the Member States of the OAS, including the U.S., publish reports which address the negative impact of the current drug control system and suggest alternatives.

The reports are the answer to the decision taken by the Heads of States of the Americas at the meeting which was held in April 2012 at the sixth summit in Cartagena, Colombia, chaired by Colombian President Santos. The Summit mandated the Secretariat of the Organization of American States (OAS) the preparation of a discussion between the countries of the hemisphere on the results and the alarming effects of current drugs policy and the exploration of new approaches for an effective response to the drugs problem. Many heads of state of Latin America had raised concerns about the negative impact of the current policy, the ongoing violence in their countries, with many victims, corruption and the prevalence of organized crime. Factors that are inhibitory to the development of their countries, contributing to instability, fuelling corruption and adversely affect the welfare of their citizens

Under the leadership of Secretary General of the OAS Jose Miguel Insulza, working groups examined the effects, weaknesses and challenges of policies on drug control in the region. The two interrelated reports contain an analysis of current trends, practices and policies, and a description of alternative scenarios that could be followed in the future referring to the pros and cons of each scenario as well as the expected results.

The next General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) wiil be held in Antigua, Guatemala from 4 - 6 June 2013. Drug policy will be the main topic on the agenda. The results of this meeting will be crucial for the further discussion on reform of the current drug control system. The next major event will be the United Nations Special General Assembly on drugs which will be convened in 2016, where the UN Member States will reassess whether, to what extent and to which direction the current drug control regime will have to change.

Read More: Compariosn if the Scenarios

Support don't Punish

The International Alliance of HIV / AIDS, the International Network of People who use Drugs(INPUD) , The International Harm Reduction and the International Drug Policy Consortium started the International Campaign to raise awareness of the harms that are being caused by the criminalisation of people who use drugs. The campaign is part of the “Community Action on Harm Reduction” (CAHR) project.The campaign has various different aspects – including: 

The Association Diogenis supports the campaign and calls on organisations and individuals from the South East European Region to sign.

Read More statement in Greek  and in English

The Newsletter nr. 5 of the Drugpolicy Network in South East Europe

The newsletter nr. 5 reports this time from Greece and Slovenia.

The items are for Greece:
-The Law on addictive substances has been adopted

-Proposal on Supervised Consumptions Rooms in the city of Athens                                                                                                                                                                 -expert seminar on developments and trends in Drug   
  Legislation in South East Europe
-The HIV threat remains a serious problem. Protest
   Against Interventions of the ministry of public order
 The item for Slovenia:

 -Slovenian co-morbidity conference, treatment of people with psychological disorders and addiction (with   dual  diagnosis)
 

Read more Niewsletter nr.5

 News
Τhe page “News” presents current topics on developments in drug policy in Southeast Europe, the European Union and other countries as well as the European and international institutions and organisations. Initiatives and actions of NGOs will be reported regularly. The page will update on new initiatives, comment on news and inform on events, seminars and discussions related to drug policy.