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DRUGS: MINISTERS CLAMP DOWN ON ILLICIT TRADE IN PRECURSORS.

The proposal passed easily in Council, with Ministers devoting most of their energies to more divisive issues like the EU's Services Directive, the REACH chemicals policy and the cross-border mergers Directive. The Council made only a few minor changes to the draft submitted by the European Commission in April. Perhaps the most significant was the stipulation that a specially-designated committee will decide which firms to exempt from needing a licence to trade in precursors. The initial draft said the committee 'may' be used for this purpose.

The draft Regulation requires traders to document all imports and exports of precursors, including customs declarations, invoices and cargo manifests. They must note the name, quantity and weight of the substance and the names and addresses of the exporter, importer and ultimate consignee. Documents must be kept for three years and must be made available to the authorities on request. Traders would have to tell the authorities of unusual orders they receive that indicate the substances may be intended to make illicit drugs.

Firms would have to request permission to import and export precursors and a decision would be taken within 15 working days. Authorisations will be refused if details provided are incomplete or false or if the authorities suspect substances will be diverted for illegal use. Authorisations will be valid for six months maximum, with infringements of the Regulation punishable via 'effective, proportionate and dissuasive' penalties.

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Although precursors are essential to make synthetic drugs like ecstasy and semi-synthetic drugs such as heroine and cocaine, they also have many legal uses. The EU adopted a Regulation in February 2004 (273/EC) to tighten controls on the intra-EU trade in precursors.

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Article Details
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Publication:European Report
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:4E
Date:Nov 27, 2004
Words:276
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