These days I am realising that this is one of the few moments when I can understand people who usually say that politics is merely about talking and not really doing anything. Sadly, a very good example is the recent situation in European alcohol policy making where we have been advocating for a revised and improved EU alcohol strategy that protects all citizens in Europe, especially in the area of alcohol marketing, which is very harmful to many young people all over Europe.
When the EU alcohol strategy was adopted in 2006, the work on its implementation started through a couple of institutionalised mechanisms, among them the European Alcohol and Health Forum (EAHF). The members of the EAHF were Big Alcohol, civil society organisations – like youth NGOs, health promotion NGOs and other interest groups, as well as researchers and scientific bodies. The EAHF was convened by DG Sanco of the European Commission. Everybody who wanted to join the EAHF was bound to make commitments that would prevent and reduce alcohol harm in Europe.
We have especially targeted alcohol marketing that is a rising risk. The way the alcohol industry can by themselves regulate the content, form and amount of commercials (self-regulation) spread in Europe is devastating.
We have during a very long time in the EAHF seen evidence from many different reports, showing clearly that self-regulation isn’t protecting young people in Europe. We can now, after six years in the EAHF, still not see any substantial improvement in the protection from alcohol harm in Europe and with the EU alcohol strategy expiring in 2012 the mechanism loses its effect.
There are nine million children living with at least one parent addicted to alcohol or other drugs, uncountable youths that don’t get the chance to live up to their full potential because the alcohol industry is not strictly regulated and violates its own self-regulation codes systematically
I’m happy to tell you that we in Active together with several organizations clearly take political action for a better Europe.
We have now officially left the EAHF together with IOGT-NTO, UNF and the European youth forum (YFJ) and will discuss with the European Commission how we are going to have real improvement for a better Europe.
We have received a lot of media attention because of us leaving the European Alcohol and Health Forum and wrote an article in the magazine “The Parliament” to present the reasons why we leave the EAHF. Big Alcohol quickly replied with different articles using rhetoric technics to make us as organizations look illegitimate and extreme in what we propose.
Instead it’s easy to analyze their economic interests that lead them to oppose any meaningful evidence-based alcohol policy measures to reduce alcohol consumption and harm in Europe.
We are pleased with the developments of getting alcohol on the agenda and are ever-more committed to step up our advocacy to raise awareness among decision-makers on EU level about alcohol harm and to empower them to put in place high-impact measures that are proven to work in protecting European children and youth.