Ms. Jane Narviliene
Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is a great pleasure for me to congratulate the participants of the ECAD Conference in Reykjavik, Iceland, and present my country and its problems. We have already celebrated the tenth anniversary of the liberation of our country. We shall never forget that Iceland was the first country to have recognised our independence. A lot has changed since, and the long years of isolation behind the iron curtain remain a stretch in the history and a deep wound. Lithuania has reappeared on the European map, as an independent state at the Baltic Sea with a history of its own, like any other state. It stands up and heads towards Europe.
Open borders mean an open road to the world. It would be difficult to list all the advantages that open with these borders, including the opportunity of communication and cooperation among countries and towns. Open borders, first of all, provide a priceless opportunity for communication among people. This privilege of open borders allows me to be here with you today to discuss common problems. It is gratifying to be able to speak about the advantages that open borders provide.
Open borders however create not only advantages, but also threats arising from the cross-border activities of organised criminal groups. Their own laws and big money come into play here, followed by smuggling, drug trafficking, trafficking in human-beings, terrorism, and illegal migrants. Organised crime is dangerous for all countries, and then one country becomes a treat to another country.
Lithuania today serves as a bridge - a transit country - between the East and the West. This location of Lithuania in a sense is an opportunity and a threat to both our country itself and to its neighbours, in particular in the field of illicit drugs trafficking.
Lithuania today is mostly concerned about the fact that drug supply is increasing and drug demand is emerging, especially among young people. Drug misuse enters our country as part of the Western European culture. Synthetic drugs and hemp preparations become more and more widely used. Following these drugs, the ideas of their liberalisation penetrate very intensively and receive certain support. This kind of a situation poses a serious threat to the developing Central and Eastern European countries, including Lithuania. We were not adequately prepared for that. The possibility to use drugs was very negative for our society, especially because it was not aware of it.
The National Drug Policy of Lithuania has been based on the international treaties on drug control and drug-use prevention that Lithuania is a party to, the relevant national laws, and the National Drug Control and Drug-Use Prevention Programme for 1999-2003. The National Drug-Use Prevention Program attaches priority to drug-use prevention in schools and among young people in the society. The goal of the programme is to ensure that fight against drugs is considered a priority of the domestic and foreign policy of Lithuania. It also aims at maintaining the integrated strategy for drug demand and supply reduction: reducing drug demand through primary drug-use prevention in schools and the community and through drug-addict treatment and rehabilitation measures, and reducing drug supply through strengthening of fight against illicit drug trafficking and better co-ordination of relevant institutions. It also seeks to maintain and promote international co-operation, to participate of drug-use prevention programs of the European Community, and to strengthen control of drug-use prevention actions at the national and local levels. It has been proposed to establish drug control commissions in the municipalities.
We appreciate the fact that since the very early days of independence the Lithuanian organisations have been taking active part in the international drug control and drug-use prevention programs. It is also gratifying that Lithuania is aspiring for membership of the European Union and is an associate member.
Drug abuse patterns among the youth
Not only do young people use drugs, but also become drug traffickers, engage themselves in drug business, and take part in organised criminal gangs. Manifestations of violence, compulsion, robberies, and thefts committed by young people grow in numbers.
We still do not find comforting the conclusions of the 1999 ESPAD survey that drug consumption is less spread among Lithuanian pupils than among their peers in other candidate countries of Central and Eastern Europe.
Within the last few years, drug consumption among young people between 15 and 16 years of age has increased by five times (3.2 per cent of pupils between 15 and 16 years of age consumed drugs in 1995, whereas in 1999 their number reached 15.5 per cent; 22.7 per cent of them came from Vilnius and even 23.9 per cent from Klaipeda). These figures raise a big concern.
In 2000, the Ministry of Health carried out a survey on drug abuse in discos. It turned out that even 51.4 per cent (1/2) of the youth experimented with drugs in discos.
A threatening situation in terms of drug abuse is seen among the children of risk groups, i.e. the so-called "street children". Children in childcare establishments were also surveyed. Even 81 per cent of them consumed drugs. The survey was carried out in Vilnius, although, there were children falling within the said group throughout Lithuania. They are well known to health specialists, social workers, representatives of organisations for children rights protection, and the police, as their alcohol and drug consumption is followed by their criminal behaviour.
Drug addiction (morbidity)
According to the number of drug-addicts per 100,000, Vilnius county is first with 167 cases, Klaipeda county is second with 129.3 cases, and Utena county is third with 113.2 cases registered. Visaginas town with 524 registered cases (or 5.5 times more than the average in the country) appears first on the municipal level, followed by Biržai with 431.1 (or 4.5 times more than the average in the country), Taurage with 236.6 (or 2.5 times more than the average in the country) comes third, and Vilnius with 224.9 (or 2.4 times more than the average in the country) comes fourth.
Although Širvintos, Skuodas, Kelme, Plunge, and Anykšciai appear among the districts where registered cases of drug addiction are absent, they should be of no less concern.
We have to consider the meaning of open borders for drug trafficking.
Lithuania is a transit country for drug trafficking
Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey remain the biggest suppliers of heroin. Heroin form Asian countries first arrives in Russia, then reaches Belarus and Lithuania and other countries (Poland, Latvia).
Cocaine from South America reaches Lithuania through Western Europe, most often through Germany.
Ecstasy is brought to Lithuania from the Netherlands, Germany and Poland. Drug trafficking prevention calls for strengthening of common borders and cross border co-operation. International operations involving officials from Lithuania and other countries result in seizure of big quantities of drugs, which consequently do not appear on the market and, thus, our people are protected.
According to the estimations of the Ministry of the Interior, income from illicit traffic in narcotic drugs amounts to 500 million Litas (USD 125 million) annually. It is a very strong market and enormous investment.
Therefore, it is very unpleasant to hear that Lithuanian people more and more often engage themselves in illicit trafficking of drugs. They are apprehended as drug traffickers in Lithuania or other countries.
Moreover, drug related crimes tend to grow. In 2001, there were 1,039 registered crimes that were related to narcotic drugs, i.e. 12 per cent more than in 2000. Crime has increased several times within the last decade.
In this regard, 288 persons, including 8 women and 15 foreigners, were apprehended in 2001. 8 per cent of them were unemployed, 42 per cent were drug-addicts, and 56 per cent were younger than 30 years of age. This shows that social problems and drug dependence appear among the causes of crime. As a result, criminal actions were taken against 699 persons.
Lithuania sees the very beginning of the production of synthetic drugs such as ecstasy. The first laboratory was detected in 2000. Amphetamines are produced domestically and imported from Western Europe, usually from Poland. Then Lithuanian production goes to the Nordic countries. In 1999, the first amphetamine laboratory was found, while the most recent years have witnessed the destruction of 4 laboratories of this type. Beside amphetamines, the production of some other narcotic psychotrophic materials of category 1 has established in Lithuania. 4 out of 6 laboratories were found to be set up in Kaunas.
In respect to drugs and crime, open borders with the East may be considered potentially dangerous to Western countries, and vice versa, the most popular drugs among the youth and certain ideas about life with drugs come from the West. Both the East and the West have something good and bad. The latter aspect is more widespread in the areas characterised by a difficult social and economic situation. A very well organised Mafia and organised crime are responsible for drug promotion and distribution, no laws or moral standards are recognised by these people, what matters is money. We are embarrassed when we hear about Lithuanian citizens apprehended because of drugs or crimes in Western European states.
Upon the membership of many eastern countries, Lithuania included, of the European Union the borders will be opened even wider. We are sincerely happy about this development and are actively preparing for membership. Preparation is multifaceted and covers numerous anti-drug actions, with the adoption of respective legislation, and the implementation of EU Phare projects aimed at assisting Lithuania in its fight against drugs and drug-addiction. An increasingly large number of co-operation contacts are established between competent authorities within the framework of cross-border co-operation, and non-governmental organisations get more and more involved in the above co-operation too. We are grateful to our co-operation partners for their partnership, support and sharing their experience.
The only way to effectively prevent the spreading of drugs and global drug-related phenomena is to be united in our endeavours. We have to work out a common strategy, which would be implemented not only by ECAD cities, but by all the communities too. We must aspire at building a safe and secure environment at our home - in our state as well as to help others to do that. Joint efforts alone can ensure our success in eradicating the threat and creating multiple opportunities. Fight against terrorism sets a good example of many countries' joint actions. Other methods should be applied in the case of anti-drug efforts, of course. We have to work with people in order to have free people in a free society - free from drugs included. Drugs pose a great threat, however, they offer a possibility of success if we co-operate across open borders and work hand in hand in accordance with certain rules set forth in, for example, the United Nations Convention on Drug Control and Prevention of Drug Addiction, if we enforce our laws, jointly control our borders, exchange our experiences, which finally implies speaking out about our requirements and submitting proposals.
In conclusion I would like to add that we all still remember an open Europe in the past. The people of my generation remember that Lithuanian villages had no locks and keys. Doors were always open and never locked.
The situation is changing drastically, which is especially true about the current decade. We need armoured doors, install entrance codes, build walls and fences, still we have to leave our homes and then we find ourselves in the street. Therefore we are stating that nobody may remain indifferent to evil since each and every wants to be safe. By closing ourselves we can protect our property, but we risk the joy of co-operation.
In order to win we have to think together how we can overcome the evil.
Whatever we are saying about the unpleasant situations described above, possibilities to co-operate between the parties may facilitate the resolution of all the problems.