Newspapers(1) who recently ridiculed the EU’s support for anti-drug programmes in Peru grossly misrepresented the facts by neglecting to mention that most of the money concerned is not for “rehabilitating drug addicts” but actually aims to prevent the production of illegal drugs.
The ultimate objective is therefore to cut the amount of drugs being sold in the streets of Europe’s cities, not least in the UK, which has one of the highest rates of illegal drug use in Europe.
At the same time, this EU support, which as the reports said amounted to about £25m over the period 2007-13, helps those previously involved in producing and trafficking illegal drugs to transfer into alternative (and legal) economic activities. There is evidence of this policy working: for example, in 2013, coca cultivation areas were significantly reduced.
Other EU support for Peru focuses on fighting poverty and child malnutrition – which has been cut by one-fifth in Peru’s poorest districts in recent years. So this work saves lives and protects children from severe distress.
Total EU development support for Peru for the period 2007-13 was €135 million (£107m) with a further €67 million (£52m) programmed for 2014-17. Peru, despite being classified as a middle income country in Latin America, remains a developing country with huge inequalities and social problems. Working with Peru to help solve these is in the EU’s interests as it can help build political and commercial ties, as well as reducing incentives for drug trafficking and other crime and also for illegal migration.
Finally, it should be noted that both the general policy on support for Peru and other developing countries and the allocation of funding to specific programmes are not simply laid down by the European Commission but are based on political decisions and day to day oversight by Member States, including the UK.
(1) “EU gives £25m to treat drug addicts in Peru“, Daily Telegraph, 26 July 2014 and “EU’s ‘barking mad’ £25 million taxpayers donation to rehabilitate Peruvian drug addicts“, Daily Express, 27 July 2014.