The drugs issue is the problem of the people living next door, however, it often knocks on our own door; it is a world-wide menace and has been an issue that the Greek society is faced with for many years.
- No difference is made by the economic or social class, the education level, age or profession.
- It is not limited within the national borders.
- We cannot deal with this issue neither with wishful thinking nor with exhortation; it can be dealt with by having recourse to a specific course of action guided by our obligation to rise up to the current situation and shield in the long term the most important asset of Greece, our own children.
The Ministry of Public Order has made it clear that in order to implement our action in an efficient way, it must be not only suppressive but also preventive, both at the national and the international level.
The principal axes of our efforts are to be found in the Five-Year Special Operational Plan against Drugs 2001 – 2006 and in the New Policy against Crime for 2005.
As far as prevention is concerned, which is our outmost priority, we paid special attention to locating and making an inventory of crime-generating districts and to organizing systematic preventive controls in areas that young people usually go.
We moved forward to planning and implementing targeted actions, cooperating with public and non-public authorities, with the Organization against Drugs (OKANA) and with Local Authorities, so as to shed light to the issue of drugs and provide citizens with more information.
In other words, our attempt is to see crime from the right perspectives, to take into account the conditions and particularities prevailing at the local level, to confront successfully the cases of drug-dealing and crime at the level of the Police Division of each Department.
Moreover, we organized conferences and sports events cooperating with University Institutions, as well as informative lectures at schools so as to raise the entire society΄s awareness regarding this issue.
As far as cracking down is concerned, we re-assessed the proficiency of the existing structures, we created complementary Drug Persecuting Services and we currently are in the process of creating Drug Persecuting Squads in the newly-founded Security Departments of Attica.
We also achieved better coordination between Law Enforcement Authorities (Hellenic Police Force, Port Authorities, Customs Authorities, and Financial Crime Persecution Body) in the context of the Drug Persecution Coordinating Body. We mainly focused on cracking down petty drug-dealing and on confronting successfully crime related to drug-dealing and use.
At the national level, based on a National Strategy Plan, we mainly aimed at:
- doing away with organized drug-dealing networks, their cross-border action and money laundering
- dealing with drug-dealing through the internet.
- containing crime related to drug-dealing and drug-use (thefts, street robberies).
In the context of this programme, we upgraded our services creating 5 new Drug Persecution Departments in the entire territory as well as 228 Drug Persecuting Squads operating at the Security Departments throughout the country.
Furthermore, we set up the Drug Persecution Department at the Thessalonica Airport and upgraded the 109 hot-line of the Immediate-Response Department of the Drug Persecution Sub-Division.
In addition to that, competent authorities have been provided with the proper material and technical equipment and as a result, nowadays Drug Persecution Services dispose of a state-of-the-art infrastructure.
Moreover, we have paid special attention to constantly keep training the Hellenic Police Force staff and setting up enlarged networks of international cooperation and information-exchange, making the best out of international experience and know-how.
Needless to say that the Legislative Regulations put forward in the context of the National Strategic Plan are of paramount importance.
Money laundering and internet drug selling cases now fall within the jurisdiction of the Attica and Thessalonica Drug Persecution Sub-Divisions.
The issue of controlled drug delivery at the domestic level has been settled and the drafting of the related Joint Ministerial Decision regarding the destruction of seized quantities of drugs, has been completed.
Hellenic Police Force officials participate at the works of the Economic Information Unit (Article 7 Committee on money laundering) and of the Committee of the National Documentation and Information Centre on drugs, in the context of the Early Warning System for the new synthetic drugs.
Drugs follow international paths and the containment of their flow can only be made possible through international cooperation. That is why official meetings aiming at exactly this objective, i.e. enhancing international cooperation in the field of security, have taken place in third countries; for instance, Pakistan, Bulgaria and Albania are the countries I recently visited.
Issues related to intensifying border controls and developing the proper information network were discussed in those meetings so as to make the best out of any information gathered both at the local and the international level. Agreements have also been signed, targeted at dealing with the essence of this problem of drug dealing, a problem common to all of us.
This Plan gives top priority to the training of Police Officials in terms of their attitude towards the users, drug related legislation and all operational practices in general.
This is why a lot of Police Agents take part in international seminars organized by EUROPOL, INTERPOL etc.
This is how our cooperation with international organizations has been enhanced, not to mention our participation in joint operational actions. Among these organizations I could mention EUROPOL, INTERPOL, SECI, the Initiative for the Adriatic and the Ionian Sea and the Black Sea Economic Cooperation. This is something we consider necessary, especially in order to combat the new synthetic drugs. As a result, all the operational forces of the Hellenic Police Force take part in the “LOGO_PROJECT” to crack down ECSTASY dealing.
Last but not least, we decided to participate at the works of the Detailed Work Files, put forward by EUROPOL.
Our main target is for our country to contribute in a decisive way to security, stability and growth of the greater region.
The account of our actions from the implementation up to the present day of the Special Operational Programme against Drugs has helped us to set the limits of the New Policy against Crime so as to deal with the issue of drugs.
The results deriving from this complex of actions both at the national and the international level are quite important. For instance, I would like to mention the following facts:
- In the year 2004, there were 23% less drug cases compared to 2003 and 18% compared to 2002.
- A significant increase of the seizures of synthetic drugs took place in the years 2003-2004 (260.000 ecstasy pills have been seized, with the last successful operation being the seizure of 100.000 pills a month ago).
- In the year 2004 more quantities of cannabis, cocaine and methadone were seized compared to the previous years.
- The Greek Law Enforcement Authorities after a 2 year research managed to dismember a gang of Greeks selling large quantities of cocaine in cooperation with big cocaine dealers from Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands.
- In addition to that, in August 2004, the Hellenic Police Force, in cooperation with the Port Authorities, the Economic Crime Persecution Body as well as with foreign authorities, proceeded to the arrest of six people trying to import a large quantity of cocaine to Kalamata, coming from the Martinique islands.
Despite the fact that the fight against drugs has been waged in a much more organized way in the past years and despite our cases of major success at the operational level, the drug problem seems to exceed our capabilities. Although we constantly apply new methods and we keep using the most modern means, drugs function in a chameleon-like way: their substance keeps changing, while they serve constantly changing social behaviors, something that is just as important.
Allow me to explain my thoughts, using a very concrete example: the results up to the present date of the Special Operational Programme against Drugs had made the staff of the Hellenic Police Force to reach the following conclusion, among others:
Nowadays, the biggest risk mainly lies in the new synthetic drugs of the ecstasy type, which have found their place within the new lifestyle and the new ways of spending leisure time.
It lies there, not only because synthetic drugs are all the more used but also because the use of such chemical substances follows a different concept as to their consequences both at the individual-biologic level and at the social level.
To be more precise, many are those who cherish the incorrect thought that the use of these substances does not constitute a direct threat the human body; they certainly ignore the medium and long-term catastrophic impact on their health.
Moreover, this particular group of drugs is not associated to specific marginal groups or with the appalling image of a tattered drug-dependent human being. The user can be anybody nowadays; people take the hyper-active state produced by those new drugs as a sign of extrovert and dynamic attitude. This image is not deterrent in the young people?s conscience and that is why our job is a lot more difficult now.
Something that has increased the difficulty of our work is the fact that today more than ever, we are called upon to conciliate in the framework of the fight against drugs two apparently opposite dimensions: on one hand, our unrelenting attitude against drugs and on the other, our on-going effort not to create moral panic and to enhance social cohesion.
Our duty is to defend our multi-cultural, open but not uncontrolled society, a society that leaves no room for practices of marginalization and social exclusion of its weakest members, without undermining its existence.
Faced with all these challenges, we are obliged to up-grade our strategy, re-examine its axes and spirit. We must take into account all parameters and make the best out of every opportunity that lies ahead of us. This is exactly what we are trying to do at the Ministry of Public Order.
The goal of our Ministry is to make the problem of drugs a problem for all.
It is a social phenomenon with many dimensions. In order for this phenomenon to occur, many factors from the whole social spectrum must co-exist. Therefore, in order to deal with this, coordinated efforts need to be deployed, so as to set up a broad, multi-sectorial framework of cooperation with all co-competent Ministries, Institutions and Organizations related with this problem.
It is also necessary to sincerely cooperate with all the factors playing a part in the social life, in other words, with the Media, with private institutions as well as individuals.
Our proposal is to set up the National Coordinator who will implement at the domestic level the New European Union Strategy on Drugs. This strategy consists of reducing the offer and demand fro drugs. It takes action against the production of drugs, against their cross-border trafficking, while also aiming on one hand, at controlling precursor chemical substances used for their production and on the other, at intensifying preventive action against crime related to these drugs.
- The National Coordinator shall be a figure with high institutional authority, in direct contact with the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister?s Office.
- The National Coordinator shall coordinate the institutional, legal, organizational, administrative and financial context of fight against drugs initially and basically at the level of prevention and then, at the level of suppression.
- The National Coordinator shall be the connecting ring between the Ministry of Public Order and the Ministries of Merchant Marine, National Defence, Finance, Health, Education, Justice and Foreign Affairs.
- The National Coordinator shall monitor the Horizontal Total Coordination, heading a department with increased decision-making competencies in terms of hierarchy, to the direct service of the Prime Minister.
- The National Coordinator shall pay attention to developing a joint approach in the field of prevention and fight against drugs both at the national and at the European Union level.
- The National Coordinator shall seek to intensify cooperation between various institutional bodies and harmonize standards regarding persecution practice.
- Last but not least, the National Coordinator shall control the level of cooperation in the field of law-enforcement, penal action and criminal research.
Drugs today are related with social pessimism, the sense of social exclusion, stress at work, increased insecurity together with a variety of other factors, typical in modern life that cannot be dealt with only in our own field of competence. Still, we continue to believe that if we want to make the mission of the National Coordinator successful, it is of paramount importance, apart from securing the sincere cooperation of institutional agents of social life, to count on the dynamic and open Civil Society.