A new EU Alcohol Strategy? - European Union Committee Contents


CHAPTER 10: A NEW EU ALCOHOL STRATEGY?


280.  The five priorities for action of the 2006-12 Strategy, which we listed in Box 5, are still the right priorities today. None of our witnesses has suggested otherwise. They are goals for the Member States individually as much as for the EU. With the possible exception of "developing and maintaining a common evidence base", we believe some progress has been made on all of them, though views on this differ widely, as do views on the extent to which that progress can be attributed to the Strategy.

281.  Some of our witnesses, especially those from the industry, argue that there has been considerable progress, especially in the UK, on reducing under-age drinking, on the regulation of advertising, and on awareness of the dangers of irresponsible drinking. They therefore believe the right approach is 'more of the same', and would like to see a new Strategy building on the old one, in substance repeating what it says.

282.  Given the continuing prevalence of alcohol-related harm in Europe, the uncertainty surrounding the achievements of the old Strategy, and the weaknesses identified by our inquiry, we do not see any value in simply changing the date on the old Strategy and making a few minor amendments. A more radical approach is needed which concentrates EU action on those areas where it has competence and where it can make a difference, whether they are part of the 'health in all policies' approach, or are actions specifically under health policy.

283.  One such area would have been the updating of the minimum rates of duty which were set over twenty years ago. We regret that the Commission's attempt to do so should have been blocked in the Council in 2010 and not subsequently discussed.

284.  There is much to be said for EU action which concentrates on those areas where it has competence and addresses the weaknesses which our inquiry has revealed. A new Strategy which goes no further than its predecessor would achieve little.

285.  We have identified the structure of the taxation of alcohol and the labelling of alcoholic beverages as matters where the EU must exercise its competence to enact necessary legislation. It will be for the Commission to take the initiative.

286.  The self-regulation of advertising, the organisation and powers of CNAPA, the EAHF and its Science Group, and research, are among the areas where the Commission should work with Member States to improve the position, in accordance with our recommendations.

287.  The EU Alcohol Strategy 2006-12 took the form of a Communication from the Commission to the Council. A similar Communication, whatever its title, which embodies the Commission's determination to make these changes, and which is approved by the Council, would in our view make a significant contribution to reducing alcohol-related harm in the EU.

288.  The Latvian Presidency intends to discuss the next steps towards a new EU Alcohol Strategy at an informal Council on 20-21 April 2015. We hope that our recommendations will assist the deliberations of the Member States, and that they will invite the new Commission to make the preparation of such a Communication an urgent priority.

289.  We recommend that the United Kingdom Government make every effort, through the Council, to bring this about.


 
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