Hungary’s parliament is discussing a new strategy aimed at completely eradicating drugs by 2020 after the country introduced harsher penalties for drug dealers and users earlier this year.
Statistics show drug use in Hungary has risen in recent years. At least a quarter of high school students admit having tried drugs and users are starting to consume at younger ages than before, Hungary’s general ombudsman Mate Szabo said earlier.
Young people mostly choose marijuana and legal pharmaceuticals such as sleeping pills, tranquilizers, or medicine combined with alcohol, according to last year’s annual report from Drog Fokuszpont, a national agency.
The government has compiled a 96-page strategy document called “A clean conscience, soberness, the fight against drug crime,” that is expected to be approved by parliament next week and is likely to pass as proposed by the government, which has an absolute majority in the legislature. The document focuses on prevention in families and churches and calls for more effective criminal action against dealers and drug users.
More specific measures will be detailed in an action plan for 2013-2015 that will be drafted within three months of the proposal getting parliamentary approval, said governing Fidesz party member Istvan Simicsko.
The government wants to get 50% of students involved in drug prevention projects while having the police crackdown on offenders more strongly. Harsher penalties were introduced in July, in an amendment of the country’s criminal code. The government aims to encourage “more responsible citizen conduct,” the Social Ministry’s State Secretary responsible for sports and youth said in Tuesday.
“The society’s demand for a powerful treatment of the drug issue underpins the government’s aim to protect its citizens from criminals, but tools of prevention and re-socialization also have to be used,” the ministry said explaining why the strategy is needed on top of the amendments already in place. Drug prevention experts welcomed the strategy under discussion but said that aiming to make Hungary drug free may not be a realistic goal.
“The aim to free Hungary of drugs is silly, there’s no such thing,” said Eszter Erdos, a Calvinist pastor who heads a network of drug-safety consultancies.
Opposition parties said Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government was two years late with the plan, a delay which the cabinet said was due to the complexity of the issue and talks with civil groups.
Socialist, right-wing Jobbik, green party LMP, and MPs said Tuesday the timing of the program looks like a campaign move in the run up to next year’s general election. They said it focuses too much on youngsters, doesn’t put enough emphasis on designer and psychoactive drugs that have been spreading in recent years, and lacks financial detail.
State resources earmarked for drug prevention fell to 300 million forints ($1.3 million) in 2012 from 1.1 billion forints in 2009 due to pressure on Hungary to cut debt and meet its fiscal targets.
The plan also runs counter to the stance in some European countries where criminal penalties for certain types of drug use have been eased, including sometimes allowing cannabis consumption, said Laszlo Szilagyi, a member of parliament without party affiliation.
The proposed strategy makes no distinction between soft and hard drugs, said Marta Matrai, a member of the governing Fidesz party.
Source: blogs.wsj.com, Photo: Scareface