Check against delivery

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased to meet all of you here today at the European Alcohol and Health Forum.

I know that since its creation back in 2007, the members of this Forum have presented over three hundred actions to reduce alcohol related harm. I very much appreciate your efforts in this regard.

But despite all these efforts, Europe is still the world's champion in terms of alcohol drinkers; and, each year, 120 000 EU citizens still die from alcohol-related harm.

Alcohol can have devastating consequences. Alcohol misuse leads to 60 types of diseases and conditions. It affects not only the drinker, but also many other people and society as a whole.

Drink driving, violence, the suffering of children in families with alcohol problems, costs to health and social systems and reduced productivity – this is what alcohol misuse inflicts on our society.

I am very concerned about this, as a person, as a medical doctor, as a commissioner.  We need to do better; we need to do more; and we need to work together to succeed.

I would therefore envisage shaping a framework of action to which the Commission, the Member States, the European Parliament, civil society and industry can all contribute.

I am encouraged by broad support for a new EU policy framework on alcohol – support by the European Parliament; many Health Ministers, the Committee on National Alcohol Policy and many of you.

I know that Forum members – including non-governmental organisations and responsible economic operators such as alcohol producers, advertisers, retailers and the hospitality sector – have an interest in reducing this harm.

I am fully confident that we can build on the solid foundations of the 2006 Strategy and its objectives:

  • Protecting young people, children and the unborn child;
  • Reducing alcohol-related road accidents;
  • Preventing alcohol-related harm among adults;
  • Informing, and raising awareness on the impact of harmful alcohol consumption; and
  • Keeping a common evidence base at EU level.

I rely on this Forum to contribute to these objectives.

At the same time, I have repeatedly said that I would like to have more focus on health promotion and disease prevention. I would like to place action on the main causes of chronic diseases, including alcohol but also tobacco, nutrition and physical inactivity.

It is less important for me what word we are using to define the paper setting out such a joint commitment. What matters is the results.

To achieve good results, we all need to play our part and to join our efforts together.

I expect this Forum to be strong and credible.

I expect Forum Members to present ambitious, outcome-oriented commitments with concrete goals; and I expect Forum members to deliver results. The input and outcome indicators you have been developing are a step in the right direction.

To address alcohol-related harm, we need to carefully consider labelling as well as marketing and advertising.

I am aware that several Members have taken voluntary actions on nutritional and warning labelling and on responsible advertising. I am persuaded you can go further; you can do more to show that self-regulation delivers results.

Of course, the main responsibility for public health remains with the Member States. They are in charge of:

  • Deciding on age limits and enforcing them;
  • Regulating accessibility to alcohol, in particular to young people;
  • Adjusting national taxation
  • Regulating on alcohol licences that establishments must hold to allow them to sell alcohol.

I therefore urge you to support Member States' action, including the work of the Committee on National Alcohol Policy and Action.

I also encourage you to take account of the Action Plan on Youth Drinking and on Heavy Episodic Drinking and the developments of the Joint Action to reduce alcohol-related harm when planning your actions for the years to come.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I look forward to hearing from this Forum on what more we can all do to support and complement Member States' action in reducing alcohol-related harm.

Thank you.