Parliamentary question by Marco Cappato (NI) to the Commission and to the Council and answer given by Mr Patten on behalf of the Commission

WRITTEN QUESTION E-0710/03 and E-0709/03
by Marco Cappato (NI) to the Commission and to the Council
(27 February 2003)

Subject: Census of coca producers in Peru and reclassification of coca leaf

The first (and so far only) census of legal and authorised coca-leaf producers in Peru dates back to 1978 and the purchase of coca leaf (exclusively by the state-run ENACO) is now based perforce on arbitrary criteria employed for the purpose of selecting the producers from whom coca leaf is bought for legal use. Furthermore, the figures relating to the increase in the size of the areas set aside for coca-leaf cultivation are contradictory.
The UN classifies coca leaf in the same category as cocaine and heroin, despite the fact that independent studies and ones carried out by the World Health Organisation itself have demonstrated the medical and nutritional properties of the product which, in the Andes, has an essential role to play in local culture, tradition and religion.
In view of the above facts and the passage of 25 years, does the Commission not think that it should call for and assist the drawing up of a new register of authorised producers on the basis of public, transparent and non-discriminatory criteria, not least for the benefit of the alternative-development projects to be implemented in the areas concerned?
Does the Commission not consider that, at the Ministerial-level segment of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs which is to be held in Vienna on 16 and 17 April 2003, it should propose the deletion of coca leaf from Table I in order to enable a legal coca-leaf market to emerge and thus a sustainable agricultural economy to develop in the Andean countries?

Answer given by Mr Patten
on behalf of the Commission
(7 April 2003)

On the basis of the principle of co-responsibility, the Commission is supporting an alternative development programme in Peru, in the region of Pozuzo Palcazu (Community contribution of € 28 million). For the Commission, the objective of alternative development is to encourage economies that are based on the illicit cultivation of coca to move to a system based on licit activities, which is established through a dialogue with local communities and the respect for democratic principles. Consequently, the scope of alternative development is broad-based and does not merely consist of crop substitution.

Therefore, this programme only refers to illegal coca, which explains why the Community is not involved in ENACO activities. The Pozuzo Palcazu Programme includes different feasibility studies (such as environmental impact), support to transport and electricity infrastructures, productive activities (namely in agriculture, breeding and forest management), and the strengthening of representative structures among the beneficiaries involved in the project.

As regard the discrepancy in the figures about areas of coca cultivation, statistics from different sources give different figures for methodological and technical reasons.

The Commission is an active Permanent Observer of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), where it has been defending a balanced approach between prevention and treatment and the fight against production and trafficking. Alternative development projects are an illustration of the latter since, by providing alternative livelihoods, they seek to decrease the dependence of farmers on drug cultivation.

There are no plans for the next session of the CND to engage in a process of revising the three United Nations Conventions. Moreover, this matter has not been raised by Member States or by the Commission in the periodic discussions of Union drug policy.