BRUSSELS- The European Union wants its member states and Russia to work together in combating what it says is the growing menace of synthetic psychoactive drugs.
On average, a new synthetic drug is created in Europe every week, EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said Thursday. But it takes the EU about 18 months to ban it.
"So far, Europe was a consumer of drugs, where drugs came in from other continents and we needed to break up the traffic routes," Reding said during a ministerial meeting in Luxembourg. "But now we are in a new situation we are a producer of drugs, which means we need to change very quickly to change this."
Unlike traditional narcotics such as cocaine, synthetic ones -- which imitate the effects of dangerous banned drugs -- can be chemically altered quickly and easily to create new substances not covered by existing laws. The drugs have been increasingly available over the Internet and have rapidly spread, because EU member states face difficulties in preventing their sale.
Within Europe, national rules also differ on the precursor chemicals used to make the drugs. While they are controlled in some countries, they are legal in others. This makes it difficult to enforce national laws because of the ease of cross-border traffic.
"We have to make sure what is qualified as a drug and seen as a drug in one country, is recognized as a drug in other countries as well," Reding said.
Poland, which holds the rotating EU presidency, has been especially hard hit by the drug problem. About 7 percent of Poland's young people regularly use the drug, officials said.
"We want to look at groups of drugs, not just specific substances, and ban and control precursors," Reding said.
In a new impetus to its anti-drug policy, the EU's executive commission has announcing an overhaul of the its rules to fight illicit drugs, particularly new synthetic substances.
The first concrete result is expected before the end of this year, when the commission plans to propose new Europe-wide legislation on the confiscation and seizure of assets resulting from the drug trade.
Reding said the 27-nation bloc must also work more closely with neighboring nations that face the same problems.
"As a matter of urgency (we must) have an agreement with Russia in order to really collaborate together," Reding said.
Russia is a major transit country for narcotics being smuggled to Europe from Afghanistan. But it also faces a huge domestic drug problem.
The EU plans to introduce by Dec. 31 new regulations on the disposal of criminal assets gained through the drug trade.
"The commission plans to come out with effective rules for seizing and confiscating money made from crime in order to make it clear that drugs don't pay," she said.
By SLOBODAN LEKIC
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