Anförande vid EU-Centralasienforum
Anförande i Paris, Frankrike
Esteemed colleagues, partners and friends,
Last year, Afghanistan accounted for 93 percent of global opium production. The total export value of these 8,200 tons of opium was estimated to four billion USD, not to mention the manifold higher market price on the streets in Europe.
With Afghanistan being the world's largest opium producer and Europe being the second largest consumer market, it is essential to identify and intercept the trafficking flows behind this drug trade. The bulk of all opiates continue to leave Afghanistan via Iran and Pakistan. 15-20 percent, however, are estimated to leave Afghanistan via Central Asia and the so called Northern Route.
Our efforts to stop drug trafficking along the Northern Route must be reinforced. Seizures in Central Asia only amount to 4.5 percent of the total seizures made in the region surrounding Afghanistan, leaving over 100 tons of opiates to be trafficked undiscovered through Central Asia each year.
In addition, there are two other issues of growing regional concern which I would like to focus on. First, the switch in cultivation in northern Afghanistan from opium to cannabis. With world attention focused on Afghan opium, benign neglect has turned cannabis into a low risk/high value cash crop.
Secondly, the trafficking of precursor chemicals needed to produce heroin. As you know, there is no production of these chemicals in Afghanistan, meaning that large volumes of illicit precursor chemicals must be smuggled in from other countries. Central Asia's borders may be particularly vulnerable to this type of trafficking.
The consequences on the vulnerable Central Asian states of the drug related activities and economic flows are immense. It undermines the rule of law, corrupts and weakens the protective institutions, and demoralizes respect for governments. The nexus between instability, terrorism, international crime and narcotics is uneasily close.
Moreover, the tolerance to crime and corruption also threatens the countries' development on their way to a market economy. The "dirty" money accumulated through smuggling is captured in a vicious circle and distorts the countries' economies by pushing it into a criminal direction.
A third consequence is consumption. Statistics show that the highest levels of use are found along the main drug trafficking routes out of Afghanistan, and in Central Asia there are an estimated 300,000 opiate users. The easy availability of cheap heroin has also changed the pattern of abuse and led to growing intravenous use of heroin, creating serious problems with HIV/AIDS due to unsafe injecting practices.
In addition, it is safe to say that the narcotic routes are also being abused for other forms of trafficking, ranging from arms to humans alongside illegal commodities. Human trafficking is one of the most lucrative businesses for Central Asian organized criminal groups, who will use physical violence and drug addiction to institute power over victims. An increasing number of victims are also made to traffic drugs en route to their destinations, whereby trafficking in people and sex work overlaps directly with heroin trafficking.
As this forum indicates, trafficking in Central Asia is, however, not only a regional concern, but a problem directly affecting Europe as well. In order to eradicate abuse in Europe, we must fight trafficking in Central Asia.
This is also a matter of security. Linkages between international drug trafficking, organized crime, money laundering, and terrorism have been directly related to the Afghan narcotics industry. Significantly, the final links in this supply chain are Europe-based organized crime groups, for whom drug trafficking constitutes important business. In this way, Central Asian national and regional security feeds straight into European national and regional security.
To curb trafficking in Central Asia, greater cooperation between the countries in the region and the international community is essential. The Paris Pact needs to be further supported and we should strengthen our efforts to implement the recommendations proposed in Paris and Moscow.
To reverse the worrying trend of cannabis cultivation in Northern Afghanistan, which is more likely to be trafficked via the Northern Route, we need to seriously research and address this issue. Among other factors, this development also demonstrates the need to update the Action Plan on Drugs Between the EU and Central Asian Republics.
Particular attention needs to be brought to the smuggling of precursor chemicals. The Rainbow strategy and the EU Border Management Programme for Central Asia are vital bases for our work in this regard. We also look forward to the Expert Seminar in Brussels and the Paris Act Ministerial Conference in Dushanbe which are both to be held next month.
In order to fight crime and corruption in Central Asia, rule of law needs to be strengthened. The EU Rule of Law Initiative provides an important framework to work for ratification and implementation of the UN conventions against Corruption and Transnational Organized Crime. Law enforcement cooperation needs to be further boosted through the Central Asia Regional Intelligence sharing Centre.
Curbing opiate trafficking is at the core of EU-Central Asia common interests. With narcotics flowing out of the region there can be no peace in Afghanistan, no broad stability in Central Asia and no sufficient drug control in Europe. This is a shared problem requiring collective efforts and joint solutions between the Central Asian states and other countries in the region, the European Union and International Organizations. Our work so far has outweighed by the criminal powers seeking to instigate insecurity among our nations, corruption among our societies and death among our youth.
Now is the time to turn the destructive Northern Route around into a new invigorating path of governance, righteousness and development. Now is the time to renew our commitment and reinforce cooperation among partners as we progress in tackling this problem which holds a key to stability and security in our time.
Dear friends and colleagues, now is the time to bring trafficking in Central Asia to an end.