Bulgarian drug enforcement divisions well regarded in UK - Prince Charles BBC - 2003/3/15
"The drugs enforcement divisions of Bulgarian Customs and the National Service for Combating Organized Crime are well regarded in the United Kingdom for their dedication and efforts in stopping drugs flow through Europe." Visiting here Prince Charles said this in his address to a conference on public and private partnership in prevention of drug abuse and trafficking that began at the Centre for the Study of Democracy (CSD) on Friday [14 March]. Bulgarian President Georgi Purvanov's wife, Zorka Purvanova and Deputy Interior Minister Boyko Kotsev also delivered speeches. The opening address was made by CSD Governing Board Chairman Ognyan Sheytanov.

Prince Charles congratulated the Bulgarian government for making the fight against drugs a priority area of policy. He said he was delighted to hear from Deputy Interior Minister Kotsev that cooperation between Bulgaria and Britain in combating drugs trafficking is excellent.

"Although Britain is a key destination, some drugs are also offloaded in Bulgaria and sold here," the prince said. Bitter experience has shown that it is more cost effective to rehabilitate drug abusers than to put massive investments into policing, Prince Charles stated.

The Prince of Wales is a patron of Phoenix House, a network of British rehabilitation centres. He noted that this and other similar nongovernmental organizations enjoy higher success rate than the government in this area because people trust their campaigns, treating each person as an individual.

He noted that rehabilitation in communities is an area where public/private ventures often work well. The prince observed that Bulgaria also has a rehabilitation centre like Phoenix House. He noted the role of the Free and Democratic Bulgaria Foundation in raising awareness of drug-related problems. The prince voiced hope that the newly adopted National Anti-Drugs Strategy, part of Bulgaria's EU accession process, will be able to support and co-fund more initiatives like these.

According to Prince Charles, "wherever drugs are a problem, we need to focus on two particular aspects: availability and acceptability." In his view cooperation against international organized crime should be further promoted to reduce the availability of drugs. The growing perception that somehow, drug use is acceptable and risk-free should also be combated. "In other words, we need high quality prevention, in schools and across society. Attitudes need to change."

No country has all the answers and Bulgaria must find the solutions to its own specific problems, the prince noted. "Although drug use has not yet escalated here to the levels seen in Western Europe, there are added risk in being... on a major trafficking route." He voiced Britain's readiness to share its experience in trying to prevent drugs becoming the scourge here that it is in so many other parts of the world.

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