Anti-drugs workshop in Erbil sparked active discussions

As the problem relating to drugs is increasing all over Iraq, as well as globally, EUAM Iraq convened a workshop in Erbil on 3-4 May to address the issue from multiple strands.  

In his opening speech, EUAM Iraq Head of Mission Anders Wiberg underlined that this is the Mission’s first advisory workshop on anti-drugs held in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and expressed his hope that it will be beneficial to the governmental institutions. He added: ‘EUAM Iraq is the interface between Iraqi and EU institutions as well as the EU Member States: and we stand ready to advise, contact and introduce necessary tools to our partners.’

EUAM Iraq advisers from six different European Member States shared their professional experiences and presented the best practices for countering drug crime from their countries. For example, EUAM Iraq’s Human Rights and Gender Adviser Anette Schwitzke stressed the need for a gender perspective when looking at drug crimes. ‘Men and women have different profiles in drug use and are involved in drug crimes in different ways. This needs to be taken into account when analysing and tackling these crimes,’ Schwitzke noted. 

Tomi Jansson, EUAM Iraq’s Senior Strategic Adviser on Organised Crime underlined that multi-agency cooperation is needed in the fight against drugs and only a holistic strategy can bring effective solutions. ‘It is crucial to share information with other law enforcement agencies – not only in organised crime, but also in command and control and decision-making processes in general for superiors to have the information based on which to make right decisions. If you don’t have the information, you are blind.’ 

During the presentation from the local intelligence organisation Asayesh, the presenter stressed that the drug phenomena has reached a critical level in the region and that’s why the help of international community is sought. 


A central element of the workshop was the online presentation by Mr Danilo Ballotta, Coordinator of Institutional Relations from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, EMCDDA. While giving an overview of the drug-related situation in Europe, including an outline of the global drug routes into Europe as well as inside Europe, Mr Ballotta accentuated that the picture is getting constantly worse. All indicators are on the rise as drugs are getting cheaper and the sector is in constant development.  

Mr Ballotta also introduced the European Drug Strategy 2021-2025 and its approach which is focusing on reducing supply and helping those in need. This means empowering health and social professionals and concentrating on rehabilitation – something that Iraqi structures currently lack.  

The presentation sparked a long and interesting discussion amongst the workshop participants on the similarities and differences of the drug situation in Europe and in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, as well as what could be the advice to the region, taking into account its demographics, geography etc. One conclusion made was that it is hardest to change the mindset of the people, including the politicians and decision makers.  

EUAM Iraq organised the workshop to address the requests from our partners at the Iraqi Ministry of Interior. The event was held at the Rotana hotel in Erbil on 3-4 May 2023. Altogether nearly 40 participants from the Ministry of Interior, Asayesh, the intelligence organisation of Kurdistan Region Iraq as well as civil society and other ministries benefitted from the workshop.

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