Pubdate: Thu, 13 Feb 2003
Source: Helsingin Sanomat International Edition (Finland)
Copyright: 2003 2000 Helsingin Sanomat
Author: Helsingin Sanomat


Finnish Green MEPs sign appeal for review of UN Conventions on Drugs

News that the Finnish Green Members of the European Parliament Heidi Hautala
and the other Finnish Green MEP Matti Wuori are among the signatories of an
international appeal calling for a revision of the United Nations
Conventions on Drugs has sparked intense reactions in a political climate
already heated up by the upcoming elections.

The focus of the appeal is the perception that drug policy based on
prohibitions and criminal sanctions has been a worldwide failure.

Hautala, who is running for the national Parliament in the March elections,
told Helsingin Sanomat on Tuesday that she is opposed to punishments for
drug users, and that the focus of criminal justice should be on drug

She also said that a change in policy would make it possible to introduce
heroin maintenance programmes for the most hard-core addicts. Hautala
described Finnish debate on illegal drugs as "paranoid", and
disproportionate to the measures needed to fight the problems related to

She said that the harm caused by alcohol and illegal drugs should be
examined by the same criteria. "In this respect, the UN Conventions have a
completely unscientific basis", Hautala says.

An earlier statement made in a television debate by another Green
Parliamentary candidate, the party's youth organisation leader Markus Drake,
has sparked a good deal of controversy within the party and outside.

Drake came out openly in favour of the legalisation of cannabis. Later,
Party Secretary Ari Heikkinen issued a statement according to which the
majority of Finnish Greens feel that the legalisation of cannabis would lead
to an increase in the use of drugs.

The recent statements by Finnish Green politicians on the drug issue have
sparked sharp reactions among leading figures in the Centre Party, the
Swedish People's Party, and the Christian Democrats.

Centre Party Vice Chairman Matti Vanhanen denounced the stand taken by Wuori
and Hautala as "irresponsible". He indicated that lifting criminal sanctions
would undermine parents' efforts to persuade their children to stay away
from drugs.

Swedish People's Party chairman, Defence Minister Jan-Erik Enestam felt that
the Greens' attitude is weak.

"We must do everything to fight attitudes that would make the use of drugs
appear acceptable", Enestam said.

The Swedish People's Party is in favour of needle exchange programmes and
drug substitution therapy for addicts, but is opposed to allowing the use of

However, one of the signatories of the appeal signed by MEPs Hautala and
Wuori is Gunnar Jansson, who represents the autonomous Aland Islands in the
Finnish Parliament, and who is a member of the Parliamentary group of the
Swedish People's Party.

Jansson said that he is in favour of the Scandinavian tough line on drugs,
and that he signed the appeal because he wants to encourage debate at the UN
conference on the issue later this year.

Christian Democratic MEP and Party Secretary Eija-Riitta Korhola said that
it is good that the "Greens' general line on drug policy" is coming to the
attention of the electorate before the elections.

"It has been evident in Europe for a long time that the Greens' attitude
toward drugs is permissive - at times even positive."

In Korhola's view growth in organised crime has not been stemmed in
countries with a liberal drug policy.
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