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I. Summary

France continues to be a major transshipment point for drugs moving through Europe. Given France's shared borders with trafficking conduits such as Spain, Italy, and Belgium, France is a natural distribution point for drugs moving toward North America from Europe and the Middle East. France's colonial legacy in the Caribbean, its proximity to North Africa, and its participation in the Schengen open border system, contribute to its desirability as a transit point for drugs, including drugs originating in South America. France's own large domestic market of predominantly cannabis users is attractive to traffickers as well. Specifically, in descending order, cannabis originating in Morocco (and to a lesser extent, Algeria), cocaine from South America, heroin originating in southwest Asia, and Ecstasy (MDMA) originating in the Netherlands and Belgium, all find their way to France. Seizures of amphetamines and methamphetamine in France remain relatively inconsequential. Increasingly, traffickers are also using the Channel tunnel linking France to Great Britain as a conduit for drugs from Continental Europe to the UK and Ireland. Although the total number of drug seizures reported in 2005 (latest published figures) declined by 2.19 percent from 2004 levels (to 83,932), the gross total of the quantity of seizures of cocaine (HCL), Heroin, and Khat all increased, whereas cannabis products, MDMA, and cocaine base ("crack" form) all decreased. Drug trafficking and possession arrests decreased in 2005 by 0.78 percent to 120,305, a significant decline from the 24 percent increase seen in 2003 and the 13 percent increase seen in 2004. France is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.

II. Status of Country

Cannabis users are the largest group of drug users in France, according to official French statistics. By contrast, users of the next most popular drugs, heroin and cocaine, account for approximately 4 percent and 2 percent of users respectively. France's drug control agency, the Mission Interministerielle de la Lutte Contre la Drogue et la Toxicomanie (MILDT, or the Interministerial Mission for the Fight Against Drugs and Drug Addiction), is the focal point for French national drug control policy. Created in 1990, MILDT (which received its current name in 1996) coordinates the 19 ministerial departments that have direct roles in establishing, implementing, and enforcing France's domestic and international drug control strategy. The MILDT is a policy organ that does not have input into enforcement matters or its own budget. The French also participate in regional cooperation programs initiated and sponsored by the European Union. Deaths by drug overdose have declined since 1995. In 2005 there were 57 deaths due to overdose, compared to 69 deaths in 2004. Possession of drugs for personal use and possession of drugs for distribution both constitute crimes under French law and both are enforced. Penalties for drug trafficking can be severe and can include up to a sentence of life imprisonment. French counter narcotics agencies are effective, technically capable and make heavy use of electronic surveillance capabilities. In France, the counterpart to DEA is the Office Central pour la Repression du Trafic Illicite des Stupifiants (OCRTIS), also referred to as the Central Narcotics Office (CNO). Two aspects of French law make narcotics enforcement difficult compared to U.S. law: French law prohibits reductions in prison sentence or dismissal of charges for cooperation (plea bargaining) and French law limits undercover operations to those approved by a judge or government prosecutor. French authorities report that France-based drug rings appear to be less and less tied to one product, and are also increasingly involved in other criminal activities such as money laundering and clandestine gambling.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 2006

Policy Initiatives. In late 2004, France launched a five-year action plan called "Programme drogue et toxicomanie" (Drug and Addiction Program) to reduce significant drug use among the population and lessen the social and health damage caused by the use and trafficking of narcotics. In 2005, as part of that plan, the French Government launched a 38 million euro national information campaign as well as a program to boost France's medical treatment for cannabis and heroin users/addicts. The plan also provided funding (up to 1.2 million euros) for France's contributions to EU and UN counternarcotics programs in four priority areas: Central and Eastern Europe, Africa, Central Asia, and Latin America/Caribbean. While France's bilateral counter narcotics programs focus on the Caribbean basin, special technical bilateral assistance has also been provided to Afghanistan through France's Development Agency (AFD). Ten million euros went to training Afghan counternarcotics police and to fund a crop substitution program that will boost cotton cultivation in the provinces of Konduz and Balkh.

Law Enforcement Efforts. In 2006, French authorities made several important seizures of narcotics. On February 3, 2006, French Customs officials seized 305 kg of heroin after searching a tractor trailer as it was preparing to transit from France, near the Belgian border, to the United Kingdom. The tractor trailer contained a shipment of auto parts fabricated in Turkey and had transited multiple east and west European countries prior to its seizure in France. On May 8, 2006, following receipt of information concerning a cocaine transaction to be conducted in Paris, French Customs and the Paris Narcotics Squad conducted surveillance resulting in the seizure of over 275 kg of cocaine and the arrest of three British nationals, one Dutch national, and one French national. On June 19, 2006, French Customs stopped a passenger vehicle entering France from Belgium and seized 19.6 kg of MDMA in the possession of a Dutch national. The MDMA was reportedly being transported to Spain. On August 26, 2006, as a result of a joint Spanish/French/US investigation, Spanish naval assets intercepted a sailing vessel near the Canary Islands and located over 3,000 kg of cocaine. The organization involved in this shipment consisted primarily of French nationals residing in southern Spain. French authorities routinely seize quantities of heroin and cocaine ranging between one and five kg, which are entering or transiting France via its two international airports in Paris. Occasionally, these seizures involve larger quantities of heroin or cocaine located in luggage.

Corruption. As a matter of government policy, the Government of France is firmly committed to the fight against drug trafficking domestically and internationally. The government does not encourage or facilitate illicit production or distribution of narcotic or psychotropic drugs or other controlled substances, or the laundering of proceeds from illegal drug transactions. Similarly, no senior government official is alleged to have participated in such activities.

Agreements and Treaties. France is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the 1961 UN Single Convention as amended by its 1972 Protocol. The USG and the French government have bilateral narcotics-related agreements in place, including a 1971 agreement on coordinating action against illegal trafficking. France and the U.S. have an extradition treaty and an MLAT, which provides for assistance in the prevention, investigation, and prosecution of crime, including drug offenses. The U.S. also has a Customs Mutual Assistance Agreement (CMAA) with France. France is a party to the UN Convention against Corruption and the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its protocols against migrant smuggling and trafficking in persons.

Cultivation/Production. French authorities believe the cultivation and production of illicit drugs is not a problem in France. France cultivates opium poppies under strict legal controls for medical use, and produces amphetamines as pharmaceuticals. It reports its production of both products to the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) and cooperates with the DEA to monitor and control those products. According to authorities, there are no significant Ecstasy laboratories in France, although there may be some small kitchen labs.

Drug Flow/Transit. France is a transshipment point for illicit drugs to other European countries. France is a transit point for Moroccan cannabis (hashish) and South American cocaine destined for European markets. Most of the heroin consumed in, or transiting, France originates in southwest Asia (Afghanistan) and enters France via the Balkans after passing through Iran and Turkey. New routes for transporting heroin from southwest Asia to Europe are developing through Central Asia and Russia and through Belgium and the Netherlands. West African drug traffickers (mostly Nigerian) are also using France as a transshipment point for heroin and cocaine. These traffickers move heroin from both Southwest Asia and Southeast Asia (primarily Burma) to the United States through West Africa and France, with a back-haul of cocaine from South America to France through the United States and West Africa. Law enforcement officials believe these West African and South American traffickers are stockpiling heroin and cocaine in Africa before shipping it to final destinations. There is no evidence that significant amounts of heroin or cocaine enter the United States from France. Most of the South American cocaine entering France comes through Spain and Portugal. However, officials are seeing an increase in cocaine coming directly to France from the French Caribbean, giving impetus to the creation of the Martinique Task Force--a joint effort with Spain, Colombia, and the UK. Most of the Ecstasy in or transiting France is produced in the Netherlands or Belgium.

Domestic Programs/Demand Reduction. MILDT is responsible for coordinating France's demand reduction programs. Drug education efforts target government officials, counselors, teachers, and medical personnel, with the objective of giving these opinion leaders the information they need to assist those endangered by drug abuse in the community. The government is continuing its experimental methadone treatment program, and clinics were treating an estimated 100,000 opiate addicts at the beginning of 2006. At last report, there were currently 85,000 persons taking Subutex as a treatment for opiate addiction in France, and 25,000 on methadone. Although the public debate concerning decriminalizing cannabis use continues, the French government is opposed to any change in the 1970 drug law, which criminalizes usage of a defined list of illicit substances, including cannabis. That said, cannabis use by young people is widely tolerated in practice.

IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs

Policy Initiatives/Bilateral Cooperation. U.S. and GOF counternarcotics law enforcement cooperation remains excellent, with an established practice of information sharing. Since October 2001, the DEA's Paris Country Office and OCRTIS have been working together on operations that have resulted in the seizure and/or dismantling of 29 operational, or soon-to-be-operational clandestine MDMA (Ecstasy) laboratories, the arrests of more than 51 individuals worldwide, and 19 lab seizures in the United States, two in France, three in Germany, two in Australia, and one each in Ireland, New Zealand and Spain. French Naval vessels operating in the eastern Caribbean Sea cooperate with Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATF-S) by conducting counternarcotics patrols. They have seized several drug-laden vessels. During the spring of 2005, French Naval Forces conducted a large counternarcotics operation concurrent with JIATF-S involving several warships northeast of the Leeward Islands in the southern North Atlantic Ocean. They have cooperated in the dismantling of a major hashish smuggling/drug money laundering/credit card fraud group operating in the U.S., France and Morocco. In 2006, France provisionally arrested at U.S. request two fugitives in drug related matters; their extraditions are pending.

The Road Ahead. The United States will continue its cooperation with France on all counternarcotics fronts, including through multilateral efforts such as the Dublin Group of countries coordinating narcotics assistance and UNODC.
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Title Annotation:Europe and Central Asia
Publication:International Narcotics Control Strategy Report
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Jan 1, 2007
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