Press Release

24th High Level Meeting of the EU-CELAC Coordination and Cooperation Mechanism on Drugs

The 24th High Level Meeting of the EU-CELAC Coordination and Cooperation Mechanism on Drugs was held on 22 February 2024 in La Paz, Bolivia. The meeting was co-chaired by Annelies Verlinden, the Belgian minister of Home Affairs, in the capacity of the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the European Union and the Co-Presidency of the Mechanism, and on the side of CELAC - by Carlos Eduardo Del Castillo Del Carpio, Minister of Government of the Plurinational State Bolivia, in the capacity of the Bolivian Co-Presidency of the Mechanism. Delegates from EU and CELAC Member States were addressed by the Bolivian President Luis Arce Catacora.

23-02-2024, La Paz

Annelies Verlinden, Belgian minister of Home Affairs: “To uphold our high ambitions, this meeting adopts the La Paz Declaration, in which Latin American member states and the EU pledge to dedicate efforts over the next five years to effectively address all aspects of the global drug issue. This includes addressing connections with organized crime, arms trade, and corruption. Belgium, as the Presidency of the EU Council, reasserts the significance and value of the EU-CELAC Coordination and Cooperation Mechanism on Drugs.”

The meeting was held in the context of the challenging drug situation in the EU and in CELAC, affecting the security and health of the people in both regions. One of the concrete outcomes of the High Level Meeting was the endorsement of the La Paz declaration, which refers to the Mechanism as the main platform for bi-regional cooperation to promote and intensify political dialogue, coordination and cooperation, including operational and technical cooperation between both regions on drug related issues. The declaration sets out priority areas for cooperation in the next five years, focusing on illicit production and trafficking of drugs, substance use and substance use disorders, link between drugs and crimes that affect the environment and other forms of organised crime related to drug trafficking.

Four thematic debates on addressing drug demand and drug supply-related issues were held during the meeting, focusing on money laundering related to drug trafficking, new post-pandemic micro-trafficking patterns, cooperation and sharing best practices on recovery and social reintegration, and demand reduction policies. The meeting also addressed the work of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and approved the annual report of the Mechanism. The CELAC Co-Presidency of the Mechanism was handed over from Bolivia to Colombia.

Background The EU-CELAC Coordination and Cooperation Mechanism on Drugs was created in 1998, with the first High Level Meeting of the Mechanism held that year. The Mechanism was designed to deepen the political and technical dialogue between partners, to enhance existing cooperation on drug-related issues, and to develop new areas of cooperation in this field. The Mechanism is the only formal forum in which the EU and CELAC countries meet to address drug-related issues, taking a comprehensive approach and dealing with matters relating to both drug supply and drug demand reduction.

The value of the Mechanism was recognised in the declaration of the third EU-CELAC Summit held in Brussels on 17 and 18 July 2023.