A new EU Alcohol Strategy? - European Union Committee Contents


List of Conclusions and Recommendations

The case for continued EU action

1.  Action is worth formulating at EU level only to the extent that it supplements and supports what Member States can do independently. (Paragraph 94)

2.  Although the recommendations made to Member States by the WHO Global Strategy and European Action Plan are not legally binding, EU action should not conflict with these recommendations. (Paragraph 104)

3.  EU action on alcohol should continue to facilitate cooperation between the WHO European Regional Office and the Commission in the field of alcohol-related harm, in order to add to the evidence base and avoid duplication, in particular in the development and application of indicators. (Paragraph 105)

4.  There is much to be said for EU action which deals with matters within EU competence and addresses the weaknesses which our evidence has revealed. However, we see no point in the Member States agreeing on a new EU Strategy which is simply a continuation of the previous one. (Paragraph 111)

Possible Policy Approaches

5.  Any future EU action on alcohol abuse should state realistic, clearly defined and measurable objectives, and include an evaluation mechanism to assess its progress and added value. (Paragraph 112)

6.  Future EU action on alcohol abuse should not be confined to action under health policy, but should take a 'health in all policies' approach reflected through EU policies on related areas such as food labelling, cross-border marketing and taxation. (Paragraph 117)

7.  We believe that the most effective policy approach is one which combines measures at population level intended to reduce overall levels of consumption, with targeted measures intended to reduce harmful consumption. Such measures, if adopted at EU level, should allow enough flexibility for Member States to adapt to them to their specific national context. (Paragraph 123)

Taxation

8.  EU rules on the structure of alcohol taxation should be reviewed to allow the implementation of variable tax rates for wines and ciders in line with alcoholic strength, and to give an incentive to the manufacture of lower strength beers. (Paragraph 133)

9.  We recommend that the Government review the formula laid down by the Licensing Act 2003 (Mandatory Conditions) Order 2014 for calculating the minimum permitted price of alcoholic drinks. We hope that other Member States may take equivalent action. (Paragraph 137)

Minimum Unit Pricing

10.  If the Court rules that minimum unit pricing is lawful under EU law, we recommend that the United Kingdom Government monitor the effects of its introduction in Scotland. If MUP does appear to be successful in bringing health benefits to the heaviest drinkers, the Government should implement the undertaking it gave in 2012 to introduce MUP in England and Wales. (Paragraph 160)

Marketing

11.  We recommend that the Government, in addition to any scrutiny which it undertakes of the adequacy of self-regulation of alcohol advertising, should encourage the Commission to reconsider the undertakings it gave nine years ago to work to prevent irresponsible marketing of alcoholic beverages, and to monitor the impact of self-regulatory codes. (Paragraph 181)

12.  We recommend that the Government should press the Commission to propose amendments to the Food Labelling Regulation. These should make it mandatory for labelling on alcoholic beverages to include information on the strength, the ingredients, nutrition, and the dangers of drinking during pregnancy. (Paragraph 194)

13.  We recommend that the Commission propose such amendments, and that thereafter the Government should support their rapid enactment. (Paragraph 195)

Bodies that support action at EU level

14.  We recommend that the Commission review the structure and functioning of the Committee on National Alcohol Policy and Action (CNAPA) in order to ensure that it is fully capable of carrying out its coordination function. In particular, it should encourage Member States to nominate officials who are in a position to represent their governments' views. (Paragraph 205)

15.  We recommend that the Commission restate the remit of the European Alcohol and Health Forum (EAHF) and review its structure and functioning. The terms of reference of the Forum should clearly state the roles and responsibilities of all participating stakeholders, including the alcohol industry. (Paragraph 222)

16.  We recommend the re-establishment of the Science Group, which should be independent from the EAHF and include experts from all Member States. The Science Group should receive adequate support as well as sufficient financial resources from the Commission. (Paragraph 229)

17.  EU action on alcohol should continue to be supported by bodies facilitating the exchange of expertise and best practices, which is seen by many as the key benefit of the EU Alcohol Strategy 2006-12. (Paragraph 243)

18.  We recommend that the roles and mandates of CNAPA, the EAHF and the Science Group should be formalised and reviewed periodically. In each case the role should include a clear work plan in line with the stated objective of any future EU action on alcohol abuse, as well as an explanation of the relationships between bodies and the Commission, which should be agreed by the Council. (Paragraph 244)

Research

19.  Where those responsible for formulating policy, in this case DG SANCO, identify a need for further information, they are best placed to commission such research. (Paragraph 266)

20.  The quality of research will be questioned if it is carried out by researchers who are perceived to have vested interests in the outcome. The best way to diminish any such perception is to commission research from as wide and varied a network of researchers as possible. This should be done through competitive tendering. (Paragraph 267)

21.  It should be no part of the researchers' task to suggest what policies should be based on their findings. Any attempt to do so will give rise to the perception of a lack of independence. (Paragraph 268)

22.  Behavioural change, the impact of advertising on consumption by children and young people, harm to others and alcohol-related crime are some of the many areas where there are gaps in knowledge and where further research would significantly assist policy formulation. (Paragraph 274)

23.  The Science Group could play a useful part in identifying gaps in the knowledge surrounding alcohol-related harm, and suggesting the parameters for research. It could also promote standardised terminology and common measurement standards to improve the comparability of research across the EU. (Paragraph 279)

A new EU Alcohol Strategy

24.  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. (Paragraph 284)

25.  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. (Paragraph 285)

26.  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. (Paragraph 286)

27.  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. (Paragraph 287)

28.  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. (Paragraph 288)

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


 
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