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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

France is an important transit country to other European countries, particularly for narcotics originating in Northern Africa, Southwest Asia and the Middle East. Heroin continues to be of primary concern to French law enforcement officials. French officials are also concerned about the increase in domestic consumption, trafficking, and transit through France of cocaine and ecstasy, as well as the increasing use of cannabis by 14-18 year olds.

No new narcotic legislation was passed in 1997. The enhanced drug control measures passed in 1996 on money laundering, asset seizure and banking reporting laws have made it easier for French officials to prosecute crimes related to money laundering. France is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.

II. Status of Country

French government narcotics data for 1996, released in the Spring of 1997 (narcotics data for 1997 will be released in April of 1998), show that arrests for trafficking in heroin (3,451) and cannabis (3,927) remain significantly greater than for any other drug. In 1996, there was a 15.78 percent decrease in the number of arrests for heroin use/resale (14,618 arrests in 1996 down from 17,356 in 1995). According to French statistics, heroin use in France is on the decline for the first time in 20 years. There was a dramatic increase (60.5 percent) in arrests for trafficking in cocaine from 449 in 1995 to 721 in 1996. Cannabis is the most widely abused drug in France. French officials estimate there are 1 million habitual users of marijuana, 200,000-300,000 heroin addicts, 500,000 cocaine users, and thousands of mostly young people experimenting with ecstasy in France.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 1997

Agreements and Treaties. France is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention. It is a party to the 1961 UN Single Convention and its 1972 Protocol, as well as the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances. The USG and the GOF have narcotics-related agreements, including a 1971 Agreement on Coordinating Action Against Illicit Trafficking. The US and France signed in 1996 a new and strengthened Extradition Treaty--the first since 1909, which is currently awaiting advice and consent to ratification by the US Senate. Though French law does not permit the extradition of French citizens, the GOF prosecutes its nationals domestically for crimes committed elsewhere which are covered under the Treaty.

The USG has concluded a Customs Mutual Assistance Agreement (CMAA) with the Government of France. French officials participate in international drug control fora, including UNDCP, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), and the Dublin Group. France pledged 8 million Francs ($1.3 million) in voluntary contributions above its regular assessment to the UNDCP during the year. The Foreign Ministry's Office of Security Affairs, which monitors terrorism, organized crime, narcotics and money laundering, participated actively in international drug control efforts during the year.

Law Enforcement Efforts. French counternarcotics authorities are efficient and effective. Approximately 55 percent of the heroin seized in France was destined for domestic users in 1996. Heroin seizures in that year increased by 23.79 percent (617 kilograms), by 58.17 percent for cannabis (66,860 kilograms), and by 101.42 percent for cocaine (1,742 kilograms). (This sharp increase was due in part to two significant cocaine seizures in the Caribbean territories of St. Martin (300 kilograms) and St. Barthelemy (863.299 kilograms). In August 1997, a Paris judge closed down five popular Paris nightclubs where police observed ecstasy and cocaine being sold openly. The traffic and abuse of ecstasy in France is becoming a serious problem (32 arrests in 1990 up to 1,179 in 1996).

Corruption. Narcotics-related corruption among French public officials is not a problem. The USG is not aware of any involvement by senior officials in the production or distribution of drugs, or in the laundering of drug proceeds.

Drug Flow/Transit. France is an important transshipment point for illicit drugs, especially heroin to other European countries. 81 percent of heroin originating in southwest Asia and 11 percent of heroin originating in southeast Asia is shipped from The Netherlands, Belgium, or Turkey into the French domestic market and then transshipped to other European markets or, in some instances, North America. However, the USG has no evidence that drugs transiting France have a significant effect on the US. France is also a significant transit route for Moroccan and southwest Asian hashish destined for European markets and for South American cocaine (77 percent Colombian) destined for Central and Eastern Europe. A transit route for West African cocaine seems to be developing in France.

Cultivation/Production. French authorities believe the manufacture and cultivation of illicit drugs is not a problem in France.

France produces amphetamines and reports its production to the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB). France cooperates with the DEA to monitor and control these products.

Demand Reduction. France's drug control agency, the Mission Interministerielle de Lutte Contre la Drogue et la Toxicomanie (MILDT), is responsible for coordinating demand reduction programs. Drug education efforts target government officials, counselors, teachers, and medical personnel. The GOF is expanding its experimental methadone treatment program. France is a strong advocate in Europe opposing drug decriminalization.

IV. US Policy Initiatives and Programs

Bilateral Cooperation. USG and GOF counternarcotics law enforcement cooperation is excellent. The French police participate in USG-sponsored money laundering courses and in specialized narcotics training courses.

The Road Ahead. The US will continue its cooperation with France on all counternarcotics fronts, including in multilateral fora such as the Dublin Group and UNDCP. The USG still hopes to conclude a bilateral maritime agreement for the Caribbean with France. French police and DEA officers continue to work well together.


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