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Parliamentary questions
22 April 2010
Answer given by Mrs Reding on behalf of the Commission

Article 75, sub 1 of the Schengen Implementation Convention reads:

‘As regards the movement of travellers to the territories of the Contracting Parties or their movement within these territories, persons may carry the narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances that are necessary for their medical treatment provided that, at any check, they produce a certificate issued or authenticated by a competent authority of their State of residence.’

The Schengen States have adopted such a certificate, which shall be issued to people resident on their territory who want to travel to another Schengen State and who, owing to a medical prescription, need to take narcotic drugs and/or psychotropic substances during this period. The certificate shall be valid for a maximum period of 30 days. It shall be issued or authenticated by the competent authorities on the basis of a medical prescription.

The introduction of the certificate was intended to safeguard the free movement of travellers between and within the Schengen Countries. It was introduced as a measure for preventing the diversion of controlled medicinal products composed of narcotics drugs and psychotropic substances on the one hand while ensuring free movement of patients with their essential medication within the Schengen area.

This certificate is only required for people taking medicinal products composed of controlled narcotics drugs and psychotropic substances. It is worth noting that the diversion of medicinal products based on narcotics drugs and psychotropic substances for non-medical purposes is an important concern worldwide, although the basis of the international drug control conventions is to ensure availability of such medication for medical purposes at all time. The distribution of these products from the manufacturers to the patients is strictly licensed within the European Union. Due to differences in national legislation, the availability and control of some of these medicinal products may vary between the Member States, e.g. in the case of medicinal cannabis.

Even though there may be no formal medical passport controls in the customs areas of most Member States, travellers may need to justify the presence of such medicines in their belongings when detected in checks. The presence of an authenticated certificate can avoid unnecessary delays and misunderstandings.

When such a medicine is marketed in one Schengen country but not in all, the issuing of an authenticated certificate is of particular relevance for the free movement of patients. In cases where patients pass through or arrive in a Member State without a Schengen Medical Certificate, they might be subject to arrest and further criminal proceedings, depending on the legislation and legal practice as well as on the status of the medication concerned in that country.

In short, the Schengen certificate is meant to strike a balance between the fight against illicit trafficking and diversion of medicinal products and the free movement of patients. The 30 days validity time limit for the Schengen Certificate was deemed appropriate by the Member States to ensure that medication carried over by the patient remains for his own use.

Finally, the choice concerning the use of digital or any other aids in activities related to healthcare and medicine provision is a competence of the Member States. If the Member States agree to resorting to eHealth tools to support the simplification of procedures related to Schengen declaration of medicines, the Commission can be called to provide relevant input. This would draw on the experiences of past and ongoing projects that have been developing the concept and practical application of safe cross-border health information flows resorting to interoperable eHealth tools (the most important of such examples being the epSOS project(1)).

(1)epSOS is a project that aims to demonstrate cross-border interoperability of European Electronic Health Records.

OJ C 138 E, 07/05/2011
Last updated: 3 May 2010Legal notice