Commission proposes stronger mandate for EU Drugs Agency as illicit market proliferates

The Commission is proposing today to strengthen the mandate of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, transforming it into the European Union Drugs Agency. The proposed changes will ensure that the agency can play a more important role in identifying and addressing current and future challenges related to illicit drugs in the EU. This includes issuing alerts when dangerous substances are knowingly sold for illicit use, monitoring the addictive use of substances taken together with illicit drugs, and developing EU-level prevention campaigns. The EU Drugs Agency will also play a stronger international role.

Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, said: “Drug production and drug trafficking have adapted to the disruptions during the pandemic. Organised crime groups quickly adjusted their drugs operations to the new situation. Now more than ever we need clear, up-to-date and reliable evidence and analysis capabilities on illicit drugs in the EU. This is why we are proposing today a stronger mandate for the EU Drugs Agency. We will continue fighting against illicit drug trafficking and addressing the impact of illicit drugs on public health and security of Europeans. Our reinforced agency will continue to be a key partner in this task.”

Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, said: “Drug trafficking remains the largest criminal market in the EU. Organised drug crime is multinational, fuelling corruption and murder. Gangs are increasingly adept at distributing banned drugs but also in producing yet to be categorised substances that pose serious risks. With today’s proposal, we are giving the EU Drugs Agency the tools it needs to monitor closely the evolving drug landscapes, to help fight the damaging effects of drugs and to work effectively with other EU agencies, in particular Europol.”

Under this enhanced mandate, the agency will be able to:

  • Develop threat assessments on new developments in relation to illicit drugs that could negatively impact public health, safety and security, helping to increase the EU’s preparedness to react to new threats;
  • Issue alerts in case particularly dangerous substances become available on the market;
  • Monitor and address poly-substance use, i.e. the addictive use of other substances when linked to drug use, considering that poly-substance use is widespread among drug users and has a detrimental impact on public health;
  • Set up a network of forensic and toxicological laboratories, bringing together national laboratories. The network will foster information exchange on new developments and trends and will support the training of forensic drug experts;
  • Develop EU-level prevention and awareness raising campaigns relating to illicit drugs, allowing the agency to act on the basis of the analysis it produces. The agency will also be able to support Member States in preparing national campaigns;
  • Provide research and support not only on health-related issues but also on drug markets and drug supply, thus addressing the drugs issue more comprehensively;
  • Play a stronger international role and support the EU’s leadership role on drug policy at multilateral level;
  • Rely on a stronger network of national contact points, in charge of providing the agency with the relevant data.

Next steps

It is now for the European Parliament and the Council to examine and adopt the new mandate.


Illicit drugs are a complex security and health problem affecting millions of people in the EU and globally. The European Drug Report 2021 estimates that 83 million adults in the EU (i.e. 28.9% of the adult population) have used illicit drugs at least once during their lives. In 2019, at least 5,150 overdose deaths occurred in the EU, with a steady increase every year since 2012. At the same time, the volumes of cocaine and heroin introduced in the EU is at an all-time high and production of drugs, in particular synthetic drugs (amphetamines and ecstasy), takes place within the EU both for domestic consumption and for export. The drug market is estimated at a minimum retail value of €30 billion per year, and remains the largest criminal market in the EU and a major source of income for organised crime groups. These developments call for effective action at EU level.

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) is the leading authority on illicit drugs in the EU. It provides independent, reliable, scientific evidence and analysis on illicit drugs, drug addiction and their consequences, which supports evidence-based policy making on drug control at EU level, contributing to protecting all those living in Europe from drug-related harms.

Today’s proposal builds on the findings of the Commission evaluation of the EMCDDA published in May 2019. The evaluation concluded that the agency is widely recognised as a hub of scientific excellence in Europe and internationally, providing factual, objective, reliable and comparable data at European level on drugs, drug addiction and their consequences, and successfully monitoring emerging threats and trends. The evaluation also identified areas for improvements, based on evolutions in the drug phenomenon, including further developing work on monitoring supply-side and poly-drug issues, increasing the agency’s visibility with practitioners and the general public, and enhancing its cooperation with international organisations.

On the basis of this evaluation, the EU Drugs Strategy for 2021 to 2025 – approved by the Council in December 2020 – invites the Commission to propose revising the agency’s mandate to ensure that it plays a stronger part in addressing current and future challenges related to the drug phenomenon.

For More Information

Proposal for a Regulation on the European Union Drugs Agency (see also the annex to the proposal, the impact assessment and its executive summary)

Commission website on Drugs Policy