Written by Teresa Lopez Garcia and Adela Maghear
The 2006 EU Alcohol Strategy officially came to an end in December 2012. A report published in December 2012 evaluated the impact of this strategy and concluded that it was still very relevant and had brought about positive added value in terms of addressing alcohol-related harm.
Although the European Commission intended to present a new European Action Plan to reduce alcohol related harm for the period 2014-2017 , no new proposal has as yet been introduced. The Commission nevertheless proposed a new EU action plan on youth drinking and also included alcohol-harm preventive measures in its 2014-2020 Health Programme. Furthermore the Commission also undertook a study to examine the different practices related to labelling of alcoholic beverages.
Recently, the Latvian Presidency 2015 promised in its programme, as part of its health priorities , to “follow the work of the Committee on National Alcohol Policy and Action, and is in the process of developing a scoping paper on the vision of future actions to be taken in the area of an alcohol policy in the EU”.
By means of resolutions and questions, the European Parliament has repeatedly put pressure on the Commission to present a new European Action Plan since alcohol related harm is still a major public health concern across the EU.
Commission’s actions on alcohol from 2012 to 2014
Third health program (2014-2020)
The first thematic priority of this programme includes “cost-effective promotion and prevention measures in line, in particular, with the Union strategies on alcohol and nutrition, and including actions to support the exchange of evidence-based and good practices for addressing risk factors such as tobacco use and passive smoking, harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy dietary habits and physical inactivity, taking into account the public health aspects of underlying factors, such as those of a social and environmental nature, with a focus on Union added value.”
Assessment of the added value of the EU strategy to support Member States in reducing alcohol-related harm (Final report) / COWI Consortium for DG Health and Consumers, December 2012
Council’s actions on alcohol from 2012 to 2014
Council conclusions on closing health gaps within the EU through concerted action to promote healthy lifestyle behaviours of 1 and 2 December 2011
The Council “calls on Member States and the European Commission to […] reinforce and continue action to support healthy lifestyle behaviours including: […] implementing effective alcohol policies and programs to address alcohol related harm, including exposure to alcohol advertising, information, early education and intervention to discourage harmful alcohol consumption.”
The European Parliament’s position
A vote by the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee on the Alcohol Strategy ( question for oral answer & consideration of motion for a resolution ) is expected on the 31 March 2015. The resolution “calls on the Commission to present the European Action Plan and immediately begin work on the new EU Alcohol Strategy (2016-2022)”. The topic has been included in the draft agenda Session 27 April 2015 .
Workshop on ‘Prevention and Healthy Life’organized by the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee on 4 March 2014. The main challenges and future perspectives related to the topic of health promotion and disease prevention were discussed during the workshop.
Motion for a resolution on EU Alcohol strategy of 21 January 2014 (2014/2505(RSP), urging ” the Commission to present the European Action Plan to Reduce Alcohol Related Harm no later than September 2014″. This procedure was not completed due to the end of the legislature.
Resolution on the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing of 6 February 2013, (2012/2258(INI)
This resolution “calls on the Commission to give priority to factors that may influence how people in Europe age, such as high rates of alcohol and tobacco consumption.”
Recent positions of NGOs & Health Alliances
The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC)
BEUC pointed out to the European Commission that consumers had the right to know what they are consuming in order to make informed choices.
Informed food choices for healthier consumers BEUC position on nutrition /04 February 2015
“The health risks of drinking alcohol (e.g. increased risk of liver disease) are widely known by the general public but the role that alcohol plays in nutrition and obesity is often overlooked.”
Consumers have the right to know what they are drinking / Letter sent to the Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis, 10 February 2015 (Ref. BEUC-L-2015-035/MGO/cm)
The aim of this letter was “to urge the European Commission to adopt with no further delays the report on the application to alcoholic beverages of the information requirements set up in the Regulation on the provision of food information to consumers.”
EUROCARE (European Alcohol Policy Alliance)
Motion for a Resolution on Alcohol Strategy- suggestions for compromise amendments / Open Letter to Honourable Members of the European Parliament, 12 March 2015
“As Europe is the world’s heaviest drinking region, alcohol abuse constitutes a major public health problem that inflicts large-scale socio-economic damage.”
Call for a Comprehensive Alcohol Policy Strategy in the European Union 2016-2025 / 27-28 November 2014.
EUROCARE calls ” on the European Commission to take the lead in reducing alcohol related harm and develop an up-to- date EU Alcohol Strategy that can deliver real gains for public health.”
Eurocare Response to Structure for EU Alcohol Action Plan / January 2014
“Eurocare shared the concerns of some Member States that the lack of a new EU Alcohol Strategy poses a real threat to maintain progress made to reduce alcohol related harm in Europe.”
Eurocare suggestions for changes to the EU alcohol and health forum / 21 March 2014
“There is undeniable evidence that the most effective way to prevent the harmful use of alcohol is to implement population-wide strategies that will effectively reduce the availability and affordability of alcohol. However, time and again, economic interests have opposed and undermined such strategies and NGOs’ efforts to support them.”
EPHA (European Public Health Alliance)
New EU Action Plan on Alcohol (NGO Recommendations ) / EPHA (European Public Health Alliance), Article, November 2013
EPHA and Eurocare argue that the new EU Action Plan needs to complement the WHO “European Action Plan to Reduce the Harmful Use of Alcohol, 2012-2020”and to recognise the evidence base to support effective alcohol policies in Europe, as presented by “Alcohol in the European Union” (WHO, 2012). They call for a renewed alcohol strategy and also believe that an EU Alcohol Strategy would lay out a longer-term context to support the continuation of efforts at the EU level to address alcohol related harm.
Reports & scientific studies
Alcohol consumption among adults / Chapter from the OECD Report “Health at a glance: Europe 2014”
This two-page chapter reviews alcohol consumption in European countries and concludes that the EU region has the highest alcohol consumption in the world.
The Role of Fiscal Policies in Health Promotion / OECD Health working papers, 2013
This OECD paper provides a comprehensive review of the potential limitations, the benefits and the risks of taxes on commodities that are directly linked with health, such as tobacco and alcohol and other food and drinks.
Global status report on alcohol and health 2014 / 2014
“The report provides a global overview of alcohol consumption in relation to public health (Chapter 1) as well as information on: the consumption of alcohol in populations (Chapter 2); the health consequences of alcohol consumption (Chapter 3); and policy responses at national level (Chapter 4). In addition the report contains country profiles for WHO Member States and appendices with statistical annexes, a description of the data sources and methods used as well as references.”
European action plan to reduce the harmful use of alcohol 2012–2020 / 2012
“The European action plan to reduce the harmful use of alcohol 2012–2020 was endorsed by all 53 Member States in the WHO European Region in September 2011. It includes a range of evidence-based policy options to reduce the harmful use of alcohol.”
Eyes on Ages – A research on alcohol age limit policies in European Member States. Legislation, enforcement and research / Dutch Institute for Alcohol Policy (STAP), July 2013
At the request of the European Commission the Dutch Institute for Alcohol Policy (STAP) conducted a European study on the age limit policies for alcohol. The study focussed on legislation, enforcement and research on age limits for alcohol within the European Member States.
Enhanced labelling on alcoholic drinks: reviewing the evidence to guide alcohol policy / Martin-Moreno; Harris; Breda; Møller; Alfonso-Sanchez; Gorgojo, in: European Journal of Public Health, 2013, Vol. 23, Issue 6
“Consumer and public health organizations have called for better labelling on alcoholic drinks. However, there is a lack of consensus about the best elements to include. This review summarizes alcohol labelling policy worldwide and examines available evidence to support enhanced labelling.”
Drug use, impaired driving and traffic accidents / The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), 2014
“26,025 people died as a result of road collisions in the EU in 2013; 199,000 seriously injured. Numbers seriously injured not falling at same rate as deaths; call for EU target for 2020. Slovakia has made the most progress in saving lives since an EU target to halve road deaths by 2020 was set four years ago, according to analysis by the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC)”