29 April 2004
European Union Enlargement Expands Frontiers of Stability and Rule of Law, United Nations Drugs and Crime Chief Says
VIENNA, 29 April (UN Information Service) -- On the occasion of the upcoming enlargement of the European Union (EU) -- with the ten countries (Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia) joining the current 15 members -- Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said the EU expansion presents a unique opportunity to strengthen stability and the rule of law.
The enlarged European Union faces the historic opportunity to secure well-being and justice for its 450 million citizens. The Union should also assist countries further East to adopt and practice the same high standards of governance, Mr. Costa said.
UNODC has contributed to the enlargement process by assisting the European institutions in translating the international conventions against drugs, crime and terrorism into the laws of accession states. With this round of enlargement completed, the UNODC looks forward to assisting pre-accession states, Romania and Bulgaria among them, to meet accession criteria and strengthen their legal and social defence.
Congratulating the governments of accession states, Mr. Costa said that regarding drug control and crime prevention, the 10 new EU member states bring to the Union impressive results and experience. For example, the new Eastern states have generally lower levels of drug abuse, better chemical precursor control, and higher ratification compliance with international conventions than the 15 existing members. The current 15 Western members have better health facilities, stable or even declining drug abuse trends, and stronger law enforcement co-operation.
In the late 1980s, physical barriers within Europe, symbolised by the Berlin Wall and Iron Curtain, collapsed. With the EU enlargement towards the East, the political and economic barriers are collapsing as well, taking us closer to the ideal of Europe whole and free. A significant divide still remains: the difference in life expectancy, health standards and social development. I am inviting all 25 EU members to do their utmost to help overcome this last obstacle, both within the EU and in countries striving to join or bordering the new Europe (Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, and Russia), Mr. Costa stated.
This has to be a two-way learning process, converging towards the best practices of social governance -- and not the other way around, of adopting the lowest common denominator on health and crime standards, Mr. Costa said.
The experience with globalisation offers a valuable lesson: economic and communication benefits are massive. Yet, organised criminal groups in Europe, benefiting from open borders and free trade, will try to turn public goods (honest governance based on the force of law) into public bads (the violence derived from the law of force). Europe needs to strengthen the security within the Union, with the full contribution of new member states.
UNODC will continue its earlier work in countries along the drug trafficking Balkan Route. The work includes: (a) helping amend domestic legislation to conform with international conventions; (b) supporting national drug prevention and treatment programmes; (c) assessing the nature and extent of drug abuse and HIV/AIDS; (d) creating new operational and analytical structures; and (e) strengthening law enforcement capacity at key border crossings.
The expansion of the rule of law throughout the Union, and beyond, is the best way to deny organised crime groups a base of operations on European soil, Mr. Costa said. My Office will continue to help pre-accession countries meet EU standards in the area of drug abuse and crime prevention. The Paris Pact initiative in particular will support new neighbours of the enlarged EU in their efforts against drug trafficking from Afghanistan and related crime and corruption.