EMCDDA Becomes EUDA: More Powers and Cooperation with Civil Society

The new European Union Drugs Agency (EUDA), to be soon launched, will have more powers to face current and future challenges

EU flag and flags

The European Union Drugs Agency (EUDA) will replace the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) on July 2, 2024. The EUDA will have a new mandate and stronger role in addressing drug-related issues in the EU – adapted from photo by Antoine Schibler on Unsplash

By the Editorial Team – The European body that centralizes information on drugs and drug addiction celebrated its thirtieth anniversary last year. With the creation of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) in 1993, the European Union committed itself for the first time to developing drugs policies based solely on data collection and scientific evidence.

New mandate, new agency

This year marks another milestone in the history of European action on drugs. On 2 July, the EMCDDA will officially become EUDA, the European Union Drugs Agency (the acronym ‘EUDA’ remaining the same in all languages). The Agency’s new regulation, which repeals and replaces the EMCDDA’s, already entered into force in July 2023, but it has taken a whole year of intensive work to prepare for EUDA’s formal launch and to transform the body from a monitoring centre into an agency, with the power to act.

The EMCDDA was originally set up to provide the Member States with objective and comparable information on the prevalence and trends in drugs and drug addiction and their consequences at European level, in order to adequately inform the development of drugs policies. This objective has not changed. What is changing, however, is the scope of the mandate given to the EUDA and the increased powers conferred on it to enable it to meet current and future challenges in the field of drugs and drug addiction.

And it’s not just a change of name or brand identity. With a new mandate that is far more proactive and adapted to the current situation, the Agency will have greater powers and a larger budget to support decision-makers in three key areas: monitoring, preparedness and competence development for better interventions.

EUDA will be better equipped to help the EU and its Member States deal with emerging drug problems

In addition to its work in collecting, analysing and disseminating data on drugs and drug addiction, the new agency will also be responsible for, among other things: developing threat assessment capabilities in the areas of health and security; issuing alerts, through a new European drug alert system, when high-risk substances appear on the market; monitoring and addressing poly-substance use, an increasingly widespread problem; and developing and promoting evidence-based interventions and best practices.

Cooperation with civil society

An important aspect of EUDA’s new mandate is the emphasis now placed on cooperation with civil society. The EMCDDA has always had trust-based, cordial relationships with civil society organizations (CSOs). However, these relationships have been merely informal, consisting of occasional exchanges on various drug-related issues – such as the online meetings set up during the COVID-19 crisis to assess access to services – without there being any formal exchange mechanism.

Article 55 of the new Regulation requires the Agency to establish cooperation with relevant CSOs, at national, EU or international level, for the purposes of consultation, exchange of information and pooling of knowledge. For this purpose, the Agency should designate a single point of contact for this purpose to ensure that CSOs are regularly informed of its activities. The EUDA should also allow CSOs to submit data and information relating to its activities.

Furthermore, the Agency’s new mandate requires it to work with all civil society actors concerned by the drugs phenomenon, i.e. CSOs, but also communities affected by drug-related crime, and communities of people who use drugs or have a lived experience of drug use.

Intensive preparatory work in 2023

This is a major step forward for the European organisation, which has logically guided much of its work in 2023, as its General Activity Report 2023 shows. The development of new concepts and services had to be initiated, some in close collaboration with the organization’s European partners. Various preparatory works were launched with a view to a significant expansion of the organization’s operations, and finally, a new project was launched to redefine the organization’s brand identity.

To these considerable efforts made by the organisation in 2023 must be added the core mission of the former EMCDDA: to provide European and national decision-makers with high quality services and publications, including, among others, the European Report on Drugs 2023 and the joint EMCDDA and Europol study: EU Drug Markets: In-depth Analysis.

Finally, we wish EUDA a successful launch and, above all, a productive journey. At a geopolitical moment in Europe when populist ideologies are on the rise and turning their backs on the inclusion of the most vulnerable communities, at a time when many Member States seem to be leaning more and more towards supply reduction and repression, rather than demand reduction, public health and the well-being of the communities concerned, it is up to  civil society as a whole, in partnership with the agencies, to present a united front in defence of human rights.

All of us, civil society organizations and other stakeholders, must commit to and support the work of the Agency in order to defend and promote drug policies based on health, human rights, the fight against stigma, and social justice.