A precursor is a substance involved in a chemical reaction that produces a new substance. Certain legally available chemicals are also used as precursors in the illegal manufacture (production and processing) of numerous types of illicit drugs in illegal laboratories. The EU thus lays down strict rules concerning the making available, introduction, possession and use of certain substances and mixtures at the EU level and exercises control over the distribution of such substances and mixtures both within the EU and between the EU and the rest of the world. Companies producing, processing or trading in these so-called scheduled substances must be, for instance, registered for this purpose and keep records of their distribution.
Precursors of illicit drugs are classified into several groups – basic raw materials and other ingredients in the production of illicit drugs and those that can be replaced with other substances. The European Commission has also prepared an additional list for voluntary control. The different groups are subject to different levels of restriction, which ensures an appropriate balance between the fight against abuse and the prevention of unnecessary obligations for the lawful needs of all operators.
In the light of the numerous terrorist attacks in recent years, control over explosives precursors is a particularly critical issue, and the relevant EU legislation is becoming stricter. The Regulation on the marketing and use of explosives precursors lays down the rules regarding the making available, introduction, possession and use of certain substances and mixtures, restricting the general public’s (i.e. natural persons’) access to and use of such substances.
In addition to this restriction, the Regulation also provides that economic operators must report any suspicious transactions, disappearances or thefts of substances that could be abused to produce explosives to the competent authorities in their country.