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U.S. Department of State
1997 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, March 1998

United States Department of State

Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs

Europe and Central Asia


I. Summary

Estonia's geographic position, the continued increase of drug-related crimes, and a small but growing population of drug abusers have raised concerns prompting the adoption of relevant legislation. The Law on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances went into effect in 1997. Estonia is a party to the 1961 UN Single Convention, its 1972 Protocol and the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances. However, recent developments raise concern that Estonia may be unprepared to rein in its expanding illegal drug market and trafficking. Drug shipment seizures in neighboring countries suspected of transiting Estonia and news about growing use of drugs by teens at popular nightspots suggest that drug abuse and trafficking are more serious than previously believed. To date, effective anti-drug efforts by the government have been limited.

II. Status of Country

Estonia is geographically well-positioned to serve as a conduit for smuggling illicit drugs from central Europe and Russia to western Europe. In addition to the frequent ferries linking Estonia to Finland and Sweden, small boats and yachts sailing in the Baltic Sea have been used for drug trafficking. Police assert that Estonian dealers may have direct contacts with Colombian and Venezuelan sources of cocaine. In 1997, Sweden investigated cases where seized drug shipments from Latin America transited Estonia. According to police, opium is trafficked from Russia and Lithuania, marijuana from Russia, hashish from Morocco via Spain and Russia, while amphetamine and Ecstasy tablets transit The Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. There are also cases where Estonians have organized illegal drugs shipments which never enter Estonia, but are shipped directly from Germany to Finland. Domestic demand for drugs also appears to be growing.

Police believe that organized crime groups in Estonia are involved in the drug business. These groups have become more involved in the drug trade after law enforcement clamped down on illegal metal and wood trade.

While climatic factors preclude Estonia from becoming an important source for narcotic crops, small amounts of opium poppies and cannabis have reportedly been cultivated in Estonia.

Estonia's Law on Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances went into effect on November 1, 1997. Besides regulating these substances, it also deals with drug abusers' treatment and rehabilitation. The law sets a legal basis for controlling and trafficking previously unmonitored precursor chemicals and trafficking. Estonian authorities express concern about financial crimes, especially money laundering, as Estonia's role as a regional financial center grows. A money laundering bill has been prepared with support of the EU Phare program. (The EU Phare Multi-Country programme for the Fight Against Drugs seeks to strengthen the anti-drug capacities of 11 Central and Eastern European states and to assist those states in preparing for a role in EU's anti-drug strategy plan.) The draft legislation conforms to current EU requirements and is expected to be submitted to parliament early in 1998. In Estonia, though, narcotics revenues are viewed as a far less important source for laundering than money derived from tax evasion and smuggling.

Although the number of drug abusers and narcotics crimes is increasing, by international standards Estonia's domestic situation does not pose a serious problem. The estimated number of drug abusers is 2,000 and about 10,000 are believed to use drugs regularly. According to a recent survey, 13 percent of juveniles in Tallinn have some experience using illegal drugs, or have abused prescription medicines or sniffed harmful chemicals.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 1997

Estonia's law enforcement authorities complain that the criminal code lacks refinement with respect to drug provisions, but legislation to deal with this has been submitted to the parliament. The aim of this pending legislation is to reduce penalties for so-called "recreational" users while raising it for narcotics traffickers and dealers.

Six full time counternarcotics officers are assigned to the Tallinn-based Central Criminal Police Bureau which is tasked primarily within combating organized crime. Included among the six are an officer who focuses on narcotics matters in the Tallinn prefecture, and another in northeastern Estonia, which is populated predominantly by Russian-speakers. In addition, every police prefecture assigns one officer to be responsible for drug matters.

Eight border guard officers are trained to work with drug-sniffing dogs: three are based in Tallinn and five at other border stations. There is still no coordination mechanism for the involved law enforcement agencies and customs to deal with counternarcotics efforts.

Estonian law enforcement authorities have a liaison in Finland who coordinates counternarcotics and other law enforcement activities. Sweden and Finland also have police liaisons permanently assigned to their embassies in Estonia to perform the same role.

In the first ten months of 1997, 111 drug-related crimes were registered, a 13.8 percent increase over the same period in 1996. During the first ten months of 1997, police and customs confiscated about 43 kilograms of poppy straw, 100 grams of amphetamine, 160 tablets of anabolic steroids and 0.35 grams of cocaine. Police attribute the growth in these numbers to increased drug abuse and also the growing expertise of law enforcement officials.

Beginning with the 1997-98 school year, a curriculum module on drug issues is being taught at both basic and secondary schools. Starting the following year the subject will be extended to Russian language schools.

Estonian NGO's are growing more active in providing assistance concerning drug-related matters. An AIDS prevention center in Tallinn has started an educational program on a regular basis which has seen the participation of 135 intravenous drug abusers. It also is distributing free disposable needles in an effort to limit the spread of the disease.

Corruption. The USG is not aware of any reports of official narcotics-related corruption in Estonia in 1997.

Agreements and Treaties. Estonia acceded to the 1961 UN Single Convention, its 1972 Protocol and the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances. Estonia's law on narcotics drugs and psychotropic substances was implemented to comply with the requirements of the UN Conventions. In May, Estonia and other Baltic states established a Drug Control Coordination Group and signed a Cooperation Protocol as recommended by the UNDCP. In June, the Internal Affairs Minister and the Director of the UNDCP Baltic Bureau signed a Drug Control Project Protocol which provides assistance to the Estonian counternarcotics police unit and to border guards in order to promote drug control and prevent smuggling.

Estonia has concluded agreements with Latvia and Lithuania and CIS countries on law enforcement cooperation. An agreement on the exchange of relevant information has been signed with Finland. The United States recently concluded negotiations of a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) with Estonia, which has not yet been signed or ratified. In addition, Estonia's 1924 Extradition Treaty with the US remains in effect, and after regaining its independence in 1991, the Government of Estonia (GOE) signed the European Community Treaty on Extradition.

A mini-Dublin Group, established in Estonia in 1994, facilitates dialogue among governments and international agencies providing drug-related assistance to the government.

IV. US Policy Initiatives and Programs

Bilateral Cooperation. Estonian police officers and customs officials continue to benefit from drug interdiction training by the USG, Nordic and EU countries. The USG has provided Estonia with narcotics test kits. Contacts have been established between the Drug Enforcement Administration, Estonian national police and Interpol.

The Road Ahead. In 1998, the USG and other donors intend to offer Estonia additional training dealing with drug enforcement and organized and financial crimes. In addition, they will encourage and support the government in bringing greater attention to coordinate the work of the interested government bodies and ministries.


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