Monday

17th Feb 2020

Brussels waters down EU strategy against alcohol abuse

  • The industry is being encouraged to regulate itself rather than to be regulated by Brussels (Photo: Wikipedia)

The European Commission has outlined its strategy on how to tackle alcohol abuse - which causes seven percent of all ill-health and early death in Europe - watering down an earlier draft proposal which had advocated EU-wide measures.

The commission paper adopted on Tuesday (24 October) sets out five priorities, particularly on what needs to be done to protect young people and children, as well as reducing alcohol-related traffic accidents.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or join as a group

Its research shows that about a quarter of 15 to 29 year-old boys and men and 10 percent of girls and women die due to hazardous alcohol consumption in the EU.

Alcohol is linked to one accident in four, with at least 10,000 people being killed in alcohol-related accidents on European roads.

The EU executive points to examples of "good practice" on how various member states deal with the gloomy trends, highlighting a special tax or compulsory labelling for alcohol products popular among youngsters - as introduced in Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland and Luxembourg.

Other countries require special labels to protect pregnant women or have imposed a minimum age of 18-years for being served alcohol.

In a draft version of the paper circulated among drink industry and public health groups in September, the commission called for similar measures to be introduced on an EU-wide basis.

The draft listed steps such as extra taxation for alcoholic drinks, special labels for pregnant women and a stronger call on member states to "re-examine their minimum age requirements for selling and serving of all alcoholic beverages."

The commission in September also indicated it wanted to see a common limit for permitted levels of alcohol in the blood stream of drivers, setting it at 0.5 promil, as well as more stringent punishment for drivers under the influence.

Alcohol industry satisfied

But in Tuesday's document - delayed by several months - Brussels has weakened its calls for alcohol-related measures and left it up to national governments to decide which good examples in the EU to follow, while stating it would consult industry on "responsible" advertising and sales of alcohol.

The Brewers of Europe, a beer producers' group, welcomed the policy document, highlighting the positive aspects of "tailored and targeted solutions in member states" rather than EU-wide restrictions.

"We have a positive role to play as part of the solution to misuse. We look forward to working constructively with the European Commission and other partners in developing this process," the group's secretary-general Rodolphe de Looz-Corswarem commented.

The European Spirits Organisation said the paper is balanced as it targets "alcohol misuse, rather than alcohol per se, and recognising the huge diversity of local drinking cultures within Europe."

Business over health concerns?

But health experts are disappointed.

According to Tamsin Rose from a Swedish public health group IOGT-NTO, the commission "has missed the point" by using the self-regulation route and national laws "because the existing system has failed to deliver health benefits."

Public health specialist Peter Anderson reacted, "The alcohol industry has lobbied to put their own profits above the needs of the European people," with commission officials other than those directly involved with health issues surrendering to its pressure.

He said the proposed EU alcohol policy is "much weaker, has a much greater focus on education as the answer to solving the problems of alcohol, when the evidence shows that it does not work, while mention of strategies that could have made a difference - like better regulation of the product and its marketing - can no longer be found in the text."

And the world's heaviest drinkers are ... Europeans

Europeans still drink more alcohol than the rest of the word, according to a recently-released report of the World Health Organisation (WHO). Germany, the Czech Republic, and Lithuania are the heaviest-drinking EU countries.

Will coronavirus lead to medicine shortage in EU?

The European Commission is ready to launch a joint procurement of medical supplies and to mobilise EU funding instruments, although no shortages have been identified in the EU so far, the commissioner for health Stella Kyriakides said on Thursday.

Feature

Children? Only if state permits it, says Romanian mayor

The mayor of the Romanian city of Targu Mures has said that the state should screen would-be parents for proof of a stable workplace, financial resources, basic education and the legal minimum age required to care for children.

News in Brief

  1. Michel proposes GNI 1.074 percent for budget
  2. Five Star Movement to protest against own government
  3. France pushing for tougher EU line on Brexit alignment
  4. Facebook delays EU roll-out of dating app
  5. Coronavirus a 'key risk' in EU's economic forecast
  6. Von dey Leyen defends record at German parliament inquiry
  7. Johnson loses finance and N. Ireland ministers in reshuffle
  8. Eight EU states warned over money-laundering delay

Polish 'LGBTI-free zones' not ok, says EU commission

The European Commissioner for equality Helena Dalli has said the distribution of 'LGBTI-free zones' stickers or the adoption of anti-LGBTI resolutions cannot be allowed. Some 86 towns in Poland have so far declared themselves 'LGBTI-free zones'.

Feature

Paradox: Nordics' privileged youth feel miserable

Young people in the Nordic countries are among the most privileged in the world - yet many of them feel miserable. The Nordic Council is concerned and aims to find out why.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  2. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December

Latest News

  1. The last best chance for Donbas and peace in Europe?
  2. EU commissioner lobbied by energy firm he owns shares in
  3. Will coronavirus lead to medicine shortage in EU?
  4. EU transparency on lobbyist meetings still piecemeal
  5. 'Westlessness' - Western restlessness at China's ascent
  6. Central Europe mayors join in direct EU funds plea
  7. What you don't hear about Spain's migration policy
  8. 'Top-down' future of Europe conference 'will fail' warning

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us