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Round Table: "Public-Private Partnerships in Preventing Drug Abuse and Trafficking"

March 14, 2003
Center for the Study of Democracy

YRH Prince of Wales's Speech Notes

  • Mrs Purvanova, Ministers, ladies and gentlemen. I am delighted to have the chance to join you today at this important gathering, albeit briefly, to help highlight the worrying issue of drug abuse and trafficking in today's Europe.

  • Drug abuse is a common enemy and does not respect class or national divides. In both Bulgaria and Britain, people of all creeds, social backgrounds and colour are affected. It strikes at individuals and families, the poor and the well off. Its consequences can be devastating, and our young people are especially vulnerable. In areas in Britain where there are significant numbers of drug users, we have experienced rising crime and declining local economies. Families try to escape those areas, unemployment rises, and business closes down.

  • These, of course, are the victims. But we should not forget that behind the pain of addiction lie unscrupulous and highly organised criminal networks who make a great deal of money out of the suffering of others. I am delighted to hear from Deputy Minister Kotsev that cooperation between Britain and Bulgaria in combating drugs trafficking is excellent. The drugs enforcement divisions of Bulgarian Customs and the National Service for Combating Organised Crime are well regarded in the United Kingdom for their dedication and efforts in stopping drugs flow through Europe. I commend their work, and I congratulate the Bulgarian Government for making this a priority area of policy.

  • However, although Britain is a key destination, some drugs are also offloaded in Bulgaria and sold here. I understand that heroin use is a real problem in Bulgaria. We share that problem in Britain, and have found through bitter experience that it is more cost effective to rehabilitate drug abusers than to put massive investments into policing. I am Patron of a network of rehabilitation centres in the United Kingdom, called Phoenix House, and they and other similar non-governmental organisations generally enjoy a higher success rate than government in this area. Why? Because people trust them, their campaigns are practical and jargon-free, and they treat each person as an individual.

  • There are many areas in this field where NGOs can have a positive influence. Rehabilitation in communities is an area where public/private ventures often work well. NGOs with good links in the community play a vital role in reintegrating former drug users into society. Bulgaria has its own Phoenix House, the only therapeutic centre for drug rehabilitation in the country, set up by a charitable foundation and supported by donations. And the Free & Democratic Bulgaria Foundation's publication of drugs information guides has played an important role in raising awareness in families. I hope that the newly adopted National Anti-Drugs Strategy, part of Bulgaria's European Union accession process, will be able to support and co-fund more initiatives like these.

  • What more can be done? It seems to me that wherever drugs are a problem, we need to focus on two particular aspects: availability and acceptability. We should collaborate even more than we do now against international organised crime to reduce the availability of drugs. And we also need to combat the growing perception that, somehow, drug use is acceptable and risk-free. In other words, we need high quality prevention, in schools and across society. Attitudes need to change. And the Survey published by the Centre today will be an important tool in enabling policy-makers and experts in NGOs and Government to tackle the problem more effectively.

  • Drug abuse and trafficking are part of the same problem - as long as there is demand, the supply will keep coming. No country has all the answers, and Bulgaria must find the solutions to its own specific problems: for example, although drug use has not yet escalated here to the levels seen in Western Europe, there are added risks in being on such a pivotal position on a major drugs trafficking route. However, Britain is more than ready to share its experience in trying to prevent drugs becoming the scourge here that it is in so many other parts of the world. And I congratulate the Centre for Social democracy for taking this initiative today.


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