Drugs Restrictions Expand

THE HAGUE – The tolerant Dutch softdrugspolicy is becoming irreversibly strict because of closer European collaboration. That is prime-minister J.P. Balkenende’s message, who’s chair of the European Union from July 1st 2004.

“We have to face the facts. There are problems, mostly in the border area’s, and we know that we have to pay attention to what other countries are undertaking,' the prime minister said during a breakfast with journalists in The Hague, on occasion of the start of the Dutch EU-chairmanship.

The coming 6 months The Netherlands will prepare and lead all the gatherings of EU-ministers. Cooperation in the area of Justice is one of the central themes. Balkenende wants the EU-countries to harden their approach in fighting the hard drugs trade, and crime coheres with it. The Policy of tolerance towards softdrugs, that within the EU only exists in The Netherlands, will probably not be left undamaged according to him.

According to the prime minister, a discussion about the approach is inevitable. “We shouldn’t have the pretense that everything will be alright when we give Coffeeshops the green light. There definitely are problems with addiction, with crime, with drugtourism and healthcare. We have a form of freedom which basically continue to exist, but we must also be aware of the risks. If the Dutch punishments will become lighter than those in the rest of Europe, a problem exists. We don’t want to be become a target of criminals who abuse the milder legal system.'

The most important task which faces The Netherlands are the negotiations about Turkey entering the European Union, and the subsequent decision in this matter, which has to be taken in December. In October the European Committee will present it’s report on the question the status of human rights, law and order and warranted democracy in Turkey. Dutch minister of Foreign Affairs Ben Bot expects the report to be critical.