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G8/international drug trafficking

Published on May 23, 2011
Opening of the G8 interior ministers’ meeting on transatlantic cocaine trafficking – Speech by Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the Republic

Paris, May 9, 2011

I’m very pleased to welcome you here to the Elysée Palace tonight for the opening of an unprecedented ministerial meeting I consider extremely important.

France is very strongly committed to the fight against drugs, which is based on two simple principles:

In France, we have never accepted decriminalization; we haven’t wanted to abdicate our responsibilities.

Internationally, we’ve always advocated cooperation between source countries, transit countries and consumer countries.

Too often in the past, we sought to apportion blame, with producing countries on one side and consumer countries on the other. As a result, we hindered crucial cooperation between the countries concerned.

This approach is outdated. We have now decided to join forces in eradicating a scourge that threatens our peoples, especially our youth. A scourge that destabilizes our societies, and at times destabilizes our countries.

First steps have successfully been taken to address the manufacture, flow and consumption of heroin originating in Afghanistan. The Paris Pact sealed the alliance of all the countries concerned. But much more needs to be done. This is why the French G8 presidency supports the idea of organizing another meeting at some point during the second half of this year in Vienna under the auspices of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. I would like to take this opportunity to commend its director, Yuri Fedotov.

However, today our efforts are focused on another fight: I want to talk about the surge – because it truly is a surge – in cocaine trafficking in Africa and Europe. For 20 years or so, the North American and Caribbean countries have achieved some success in this area. The US market has become smaller. But what happened?

Traffickers opened new routes to Europe and Africa! In Europe, the number of cocaine users has doubled in 10 years: there are currently over four million of them, and that number continues to grow.

Routes from producing areas in the Andean region have multiplied, modes of transport have diversified. Several West African and North African countries have become transit zones. Powerful networks of traffickers have sought to impose their laws to the extent of seriously threatening the stability of several countries.

The threat takes many forms; it is ever-changing. Criminal networks have an ability to adapt and a limitless imagination when it comes to identifying new channels and new modes of transport.

Our duty, our responsibility will be to demonstrate in practice that we can be better than them and win this fight.

So criminal organizations think they can threaten certain countries?

It’s up to us, through our cooperation, to show them that we won’t allow any country to be destabilized! So traffickers are coming up with new delivery methods such as smuggling drugs in containers? It’s up to us to demonstrate our ability to secure every container! So cartels are even using submarines? It’s up to us, in complete cooperation, to mobilize our countries’ navies!

Too often we’ve failed due to not enough coordination. That’s the major focus of your meeting, an unprecedented meeting proposed by France at the Muskoka Summit.

It’s the first time an international conference has brought together ministers from three continents to counter drug trafficking, with specific goals and the will to adopt conclusions that can be put into practice.

I’m sure that with Claude Guéant acting as chair, supported by the French Justice Minister, Michel Mercier, you will adopt, at the end of the meeting’s proceedings, decisions that will put a significant brake on transatlantic cocaine trafficking.

Without wanting to pre-empt your discussions, I’d just like to make a few points.

The first key to success in my mind is the collection and sharing of information and intelligence. You come from three different continents that until now haven’t had a natural tradition of working together. Any steps taken in that direction will be a victory in the war on drug trafficking.

Another area of cooperation warrants exploration: it’s essential that in each of the countries concerned, drug traffickers come up against a comprehensive and solid criminal justice system. We need police officers who carry out investigations, but also judges who sentence criminals where necessary, and secure prisons where sentences are served. This is an area of cooperation where countries that are most equipped should propose significant cooperation to transit countries requesting it.

But working to stop traffickers does not just mean imprisoning them or seizing drugs. It also involves tackling the primary reason for trafficking: money. We need to deprive drug traffickers of the proceeds of their crime. Criminals should be punished not only by long prison sentences but also by the confiscation of their assets.


I’d like to put forward a proposal to you here: why not use all the money from drug traffickers’ assets to finance an international fund managed by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime? This fund would have one purpose: to support capacity building in the countries that are the most fragile and hardest hit by drug trafficking. The fact that it would be managed by a United Nations organization with undisputed expertise would ensure the effectiveness and quality of its governance.

In addition to setting up such a fund, let’s be aware that the set of measures you decide on will work only if they are backed by a financial effort equal to the challenges. It shows the importance of mobilizing financial resources from several of the financial institutions taking part in your meeting. I would like to issue an appeal to them: let’s release the necessary financial resources! The success of your action plan depends on it!


If there’s an area where there’s strength in unity, it’s the area of combating crime and drug trafficking networks. Your presence here tonight, your participation in this unprecedented meeting reflects a political mobilization that in itself is a guarantee of success. I will submit the conclusions of your work to the G8 summit on 26 and 27 May in Deauville. I can assure you that the heads of State and government will express their determination to implement your recommendations ambitiously.

I would like to thank you for being here tonight and ask you, if I may, to share a drink with me in the name of friendship and cooperation.
Thank you./.

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