Tag Archives: Precursors

Drug precursors: internal aspects

Drug precursors: internal aspects

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Drug precursors: internal aspects


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.


Drug precursors: internal aspects

Document or Iniciative

Regulation (EC) No 273/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February 2004 on drug precursors [See amending act(s)].


Effective control of chemicals used in the illicit manufacture of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances is an important tool in combating drug trafficking. However, these chemicals (known as “precursors”) also have legal and legitimate industrial uses. Therefore, it is necessary to recognise and protect the legal trade in these substances, while discouraging their diversion for illicit purposes.

The objective is to strike a balance between taking action to prevent the manufacture of illegal drugs and avoiding barriers to the legal trade in chemicals.

Measures to control precursors

This regulation establishes harmonised measures for controlling and monitoring within the European Union (EU) certain chemical substances that are frequently used in the illicit manufacture of narcotic drugs. It defines “scheduled substances” * in accordance with Article 12 of the United Nations (UN) Convention (see below). For these scheduled substances, the regulation contains provisions relating to licences, customer declarations and labelling. A monitoring procedure is put in place to prevent obstacles to the free trade in these substances between EU countries.

At the same time, the regulation also defines “non-scheduled substances” * in accordance with Article 12 of the UN Convention. For these substances, the Commission draws up guidelines establishing a more flexible control system than the one applicable to scheduled substances.

Under the regulation, operators * must immediately notify the competent authorities of any circumstances, such as unusual orders or transactions involving scheduled substances to be placed on the market *, which suggest that such substances might be diverted for the illicit manufacture of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances.

Obligations of operators

Operators wishing to place on the market substances scheduled as precursors (categories 1 or 2 of Annex I) have the following obligations:

  • to appoint an officer responsible for the trade, and to notify the competent authorities of the name and contact details of that officer;
  • to declare the addresses of the premises at which they manufacture or from which they trade in these substances (for category 2);
  • to obtain a licence from the competent authorities for possession of substances listed in category 1 (special licences may be granted to pharmacies, dispensaries of veterinary medicine, certain types of public authorities or armed forces);
  • to ask customers to sign a declaration specifying the use(s) made of the substance provided to them;
  • to supply scheduled substances only to natural or legal persons in possession of a licence for possession of such substances (for category 1);
  • to affix a label to scheduled substances before they are transported, showing the name, quantity and weight of the substance and the name and address of the supplier and the recipient.

To prevent creating unnecessary barriers to trade, the requirements for scheduled substances in category 2 are less restrictive than for those in category 1, particularly where the quantities involved do not exceed those indicated in Annex II.

Assisted by a committee, the Commission draws up and keeps updated a list of substances to monitor. EU countries must distribute these lists to operators.

This regulation repeals Council Directive 92/109/EEC, Commission Directives 93/46/EEC, 2001/8/EC and 2003/101/EC, and Commission Regulations (EC) Nos 1485/96 and 1533/2000.

Background: internal and external aspects of the fight against drugs

In 1990, the UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances was adopted by the EU through Council Decision 90/611/ EEC. Article 12 of the UN Convention required measures to be taken to monitor the manufacture and distribution of precursors. As regards the external aspect of this requirement, i.e. monitoring the trade in precursors between EU and non-EU countries, the requirements of Article 12 have been met by Council Regulation (EEC) No 111/2005.

Key terms used in the act
  • Scheduled substance: any substance listed in Annex I liable to be used for the illicit manufacture of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, including mixtures and natural products containing such substances. This excludes medicinal products, pharmaceutical preparations, mixtures, natural products and other preparations containing scheduled substances that are compounded in such a way that they cannot be easily used or extracted by readily applicable or economically viable means.
  • Non-scheduled substance: any substance which, although not listed in Annex I, is identified as having been used for the illicit manufacture of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances.
  • Placing on the market: any supply, whether in return for payment or free of charge, of scheduled substances in the EU; or the storage, manufacture, production, processing, trade, distribution or brokering of these substances for the purpose of supply in the EU.
  • Operator: any natural or legal person engaged in the placing on the market of scheduled substances.


Act Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Regulation (EC) No 273/2004


JO L 47 of 18.2.2004

Amending act(s) Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Regulation (EC) No 219/2009


OJ L 87 of 31.3.2009

Related Acts

Report from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 7 January 2010 pursuant to Article 16 of Regulation (EC) No 273/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February 2004 and to Article 32 of Council Regulation (EC) No 111/2005 on the implementation and functioning of the Community legislation on monitoring and control of trade in drug precursors [COM(2009) 709 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
This report evaluates the implementation as well as the functioning of Regulations (EC) Nos 273/2004 (above) and 111/2005.
Based on data received form EU countries, the Commission’s evaluation concludes that the legal framework for controlling trade generally provides measures that are proportionate for preventing the diversion of drug precursors without obstructing their legitimate trade. The well-functioning cooperation between operators and competent authorities has greatly contributed to this. Furthermore, the EU guidelines for the chemical industry, together with a new eLearning course for economic operators, complements well this legal framework.
EU countries have applied the common licensing system for category 1 precursors satisfactorily and it functions effectively for the competent authorities as well as for the industry. However, the registration requirement for category 2 precursors might have certain weak points for properly controlling, and preventing diversion in the trade of these substances. In addition, certain provisions (e.g. relating to customer declarations or criteria for determining mixtures) are interpreted differently by EU countries. Other difficulties concern the insufficient rate of reporting by operators to competent authorities and certain aspects of the legislation on external trade, such as inflexible time limits for pre-export notifications and lack of simplified authorisation procedures.
Consequently, the report makes the following recommendations:

  • enhance the harmonised application of the legislative framework by EU countries, especially by sharing best practice;
  • improve reporting, for example by increasing the frequency with which operators must report to competent authorities;
  • possibly modify existing legislation to strengthen controls on category 2 precursors;
  • strengthen controls on pharmaceutical preparations/medicinal products containing ephedrine or pseudo-ephedrine that transit through the EU;
  • modify the procedural requirements to achieve a level of controls that is proportionate to the risk of diversion.

Commission Regulation (EC) No 1277/2005 of 27 July 2005 laying down implementing rules for Regulation (EC) No 273/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council on drug precursors and for Council Regulation (EC) No 111/2005 laying down rules for the monitoring of trade between the Community and third countries in drug precursors [Official Journal L 202 of 03.08.2005].
This regulation lays down rules for the implementation of the abovementioned regulations as regards the responsible officer, the licensing and registration of operators, the provision of information, pre-export notifications and authorisation of exports and imports in the field of drug precursors.

The EU drugs strategy

The EU drugs strategy

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about The EU drugs strategy


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Justice freedom and security > Combating drugs

The EU drugs strategy (2005-12)

Document or Iniciative

Note from the Council of 22 November 2004 on the EU Drugs Strategy for the period 2005-2012 [15074/04 – Not published in the Official Journal] (pdf ).


The Council identifies two general aims with regard to drugs:

  • the EU seeks to achieve a high level of health protection, well-being and social cohesion by complementing the efforts of Member States to prevent and reduce drug use, dependence and drug-related damage to health and society;
  • the EU and its Member States strive to ensure a high level of security for the general public by taking action against drug production, cross-border trafficking in drugs and the diversion of chemical precursors used in drug production, as well as by intensifying preventive action against drug-related crime through effective cooperation embedded in a joint approach.

The strategy concentrates on two policy fields demand reduction and supply reduction and on two cross-cutting themes international cooperation and research, information and evaluation.

Field of action: demand reduction

The following priorities have been identified in the area of demand reduction:

  • improving access to and effectiveness of prevention programmes and raising awareness thereof;
  • improving access to early intervention programmes or measures;
  • improving access to targeted and diversified treatment programmes;
  • improving access to services for the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS.

Field of action: supply reduction

The following priorities have been identified in the area of supply reduction:

  • strengthening EU law enforcement cooperation at both strategic and crime prevention levels;
  • intensifying effective law enforcement cooperation between Member States by using existing instruments and frameworks;
  • preventing the illicit import and export of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, including to other Member States;
  • enhancing law enforcement, criminal investigation and forensic science cooperation between Member States that have common interests and/or face the same drug-related problems;
  • intensifying law enforcement efforts directed at non-EU countries, especially producer countries and regions along trafficking routes.

The focus will be on production, illicit (intra-EU) cross-border drug trafficking, criminal networks engaged in these activities and related serious crime. The flow of drugs from the EU to third countries must also be curbed.

Many instruments and frameworks have been established to reduce supply, including the framework decision laying down minimum provisions on the constituent elements of criminal acts and applicable penalties in the field of drug trafficking, joint investigation teams, the European arrest warrant, Europol and Eurojust, the financial intelligence unit, confiscation of assets measures, and the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime and its Protocols.

Cross-cutting theme: international cooperation

The following priorities have been identified in the area of external relations:

  • coordinated, effective and more visible action by the Union in international organisations and fora to enhance and promote a balanced approach to the drugs problem;
  • special efforts in relation to the candidate countries and potential candidate countries, such as the countries of the stabilisation and association process;
  • assisting third countries, including neighbouring European countries and key drug-producing and transit countries, to be more effective in drug demand and supply reduction, both through closer cooperation among EU-Member States and by mainstreaming drug issues into the general common foreign and security policy dialogue and development cooperation. New cooperation agreements between the EU and third countries should continue to include a specific clause on cooperation in drugs control.

Cross-cutting theme: information, research and evaluation

The following priorities have been identified in the field of information and research:

  • improving EU knowledge infrastructure in the field of drugs and consolidating the drug information systems and tools developed over the 2000-04 period, making full use of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and Europol;
  • each EU action plan should include priority research topics to be fostered at EU level, taking into account the rapid evolution of the drugs problem.

As regards evaluation, the EU drugs strategy 2005-12 makes clear that it is an integral part of an EU approach to drugs policy that serves to give clear indications about the merits and shortcomings of current actions and activities at EU level.


The action plans should include initiatives that will contribute to the further development of a European coordination mechanism. EU-level coordination of drugs policy should take place through the Council’s Horizontal Drugs Group (HDG), whose function is to prepare a clear and coherent drugs policy for adoption by the Council. If it is to play a leading role in the drugs field, the HDG needs to be kept informed of relevant developments at national level and of activities carried out by other relevant Council working groups.


In 2012, the Commission will organise an overall evaluation of the EU drugs strategy and action plans for the Council and the European Parliament, in cooperation with the EMCDDA, Europol and the Member States.


The current drug situation in the EU is described in the annual reports of the EMCDDA and Europol. The results of the final evaluation of the EU drugs strategy 2000-04 and the action plan on drugs 2000-04 indicate that progress has been made in achieving some of the targets, although the available data does not suggest that there has been a significant reduction in the prevalence of drug use or that the availability of drugs has been substantially reduced.

At its meeting of 17-18 June 2004, the European Council invited the Council to adopt proposals by no later than December 2004 for a new EU drugs strategy for the period 2005-12. This strategy builds on the previous strategy and its action plan, taking into consideration these texts as well as the mid-term evaluation of the action plan, the Council’s response to this evaluation and the results of the final evaluation.

Related Acts

EU Drugs Action Plan for 2009-2012 of 20 December 2008 [Official Journal C 326 of 20.12.2008].
The EU drugs action plan 2009-12 follows on from that of 2005-08. It builds on the measures established to implement the EU drugs strategy 2005-12, thereby aiming to reduce the demand for and supply of drugs. To that end, the action plan sets out five priority areas with specific actions that coordinate drugs policy at national and European levels.

of 8 July 2005 [Official Journal C 168 of 8.7.2005].

Communication from the Commission of 10 May 2005 – The Hague Programme: Ten priorities for the next five years. The Partnership for European renewal in the field of Freedom, Security and Justice [COM(2005) 184 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Council Decision 2005/387/JHA of 10 May 2005 on information exchange, risk-assessment and control of new psychoactive substances [Official Journal L 127 of 20.5.2005].

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council of 12 November 2003 on coordination on drugs in the European Union [COM(2003) 681 final – not published in the Official Journal].

The Commission, wishing to boost coordination on drugs at EU level, explains what is needed and what is at stake, pointing to the main existing models of coordination and emphasising the key elements of effective interaction. It recommends, in particular, incorporating all aspects of drug-related policy (social and health aspects, enforcement measures, youth policy), close cooperation between law enforcement bodies and coordination between them and social and health services, as well as systematic development of the evaluation of strategies and activities in this field.