Speeches

Speech by Micheál Martin TD, Minister for Health and Children at the opening of the Pompidou Group Ministerial Conference

Introduction

Mr President, Commissioner, Deputy Secretary General, Ministers Distinguished Guests. It gives me great pleasure as Chair of the Pompidou Group and on behalf of the Irish Government to welcome you to the historic surroundings of Dublin Castle for our triennial meeting at Ministerial level.

Ireland was honoured to be appointed to the Chair of the Pompidou Group at the Sintra Conference three years ago, and I am delighted to be able to host this conference in Dublin which marks the end of the Irish Presidency of the Group.

Participants

The list of delegates participating in this conference -including as it does Ministers and delegates from a variety of fields – underlines the multi-disciplinary nature of the work of the Pompidou Group. It is this approach above all else that makes the contribution of the Pompidou Group so valuable. The Pompidou Group allows an exchange of information, experience and knowledge in relation to drug misuse and drug trafficking between political decision makers and experts in the different fields of justice and law enforcement, health, education and social affairs. In doing so it has made a very valuable contribution over the years here in Ireland, as I know it has also in other Member countries, and across Europe as a whole. I would like to extend a very warm welcome to all delegates to Dublin so that we can continue to facilitate that dialogue.

Since our last Ministerial Conference in Sintra two countries -Azerbaijan and Lithuania – have joined the Pompidou Group, bringing membership up to 34 countries.

Theme and sub-themes

The theme of the conference, which has been carefully chosen by our Permanent Correspondents is ‘New Challenges for Drug Policy in Europe’. It is a very far reaching theme, and within it we have been asked to focus in particular on the sub-themes of: Poly Drug Use; Evidence-based policies (linking policy, practice and science); Enhancing EU/non-EU co-operation and the specific role of the Pompidou Group in the European institutional context.

These themes reflect vitally important issues for our modern societies. Drug misuse and drug trafficking are scourges of modern day society and inflict much harm on individuals, families and communities as a whole, and in particular on our young people. There are many challenges facing each country on an individual level, at European level and at a wider international level. Our strengths in dealing with these challenges lie in our ability to co-operate and share information on policies and practices in each of our countries. While we do not all treat the issue of drug misuse in exactly the same way, our continued collaboration will ensure the best possible access to knowledge in dealing with this problem.

Documents for Approval

In addition to the thematic debate which we will have, we have also a number of documents which have been submitted to us for decision and approval.

The Statement on the structures and working methods of the Pompidou Group that is being put to us for approval reaffirms the importance of the work undertaken by the Group and its core mission of contributing to the development of effective, workable, evidence-based, innovative, balanced, multidisciplinary drug policies. This statement is a strong one and one that I hope can be supported by us.

A work programme for the next three years is submitted to us for agreement. This work programme reflects a changing climate and takes account of work that is being carried out by other institutions so that the work of the Pompidou Group will complement the work of other organisations. The Pompidou Group was established in 1971 and during this time it has adapted its role to deal with changes in the drug situation. The proposed work programme will involve people working on the ground and will link policy, practice and science. It is I believe realistic and achievable and I hope will attract both our political and our financial support.

Our work will also involve the approval of a political declaration, which will reaffirm our commitment to working together in the field of drug misuse and drug trafficking.

Conclusion

I look forward to meeting many of you individually during the conference and at tonight´s dinner. I hope you enjoy your stay in Dublin. Finally I would like to formally declare the thirteenth Pompidou Group Ministerial conference open.