Opinion Former Article

UK calls on EU to support Member States in tackling alcohol harm

On 10th September, the UK Government issued its response to the House of Lords’ report on the EU Alcohol Strategy. The Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) and the European Alcohol Policy Alliance (Eurocare) welcome the Government’s commitment and detailed opinion on how to address alcohol policies at the European level.

Some of the key points outlined in the Government’s response include:

• A commitment to support the Scottish Government’s attempt to introduce minimum unit pricing, in the face of a legal challenge by the Scotch Whisky Association
• A call for the EU tax regulations to be adjusted for wine and cider, to incentivise the production of lower strength products
• An agreement that mandatory calorie labelling on alcohol products would provide useful information to consumers
• Criticism of the European Commission for not acting on recommendations to strengthen Member State involvement in alcohol policy via the Committee for National Alcohol Policy and Action (CNAPA)

Katherine Brown, Director of IAS (UK), says: “This is a clear call for greater action from the European Commission to support Member States in protecting the health and wellbeing of their citizens. It is not acceptable that the EU Alcohol Strategy has been left to expire in the face of repeated requests from the European Parliament and Member States. We hope this response from the UK Government will encourage the Commission to move forward in developing a new alcohol strategy as a matter of urgency.”

Mariann Skar, Secretary General of the European Alcohol Policy Alliance, says: “The United Kingdom has produced an impressive analysis from the House of Lords which has led to explicit support from the UK Government for addressing alcohol policies at the European level. We welcome these opinions, and fully support the need to address the EU added value to the policies addressed”.

The response states that the UK Government broadly agrees with the House of Lords’ EU Committee’s recommendations that an EU Alcohol Strategy is important. It argues that actions from the European Union should complement and support Member States and not interfere with their competence on public health. Furthermore, the Government points out the need for joint work by the EU and the WHO Regional Office for Europe for shared database and application of indicators.

For more information, please contact Nils Garnes, IAS Policy Officer (ngarnes@ias.org.uk)

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