Launch of the Alcohol and Health Forum
Brussels, 07 June 2007
I would like to welcome you all today.
As you all know, in October last year the Commission adopted the EU Alcohol Strategy. This marked an important starting point of a long and hard effort to reduce alcohol-related harm in the EU. And we all know that in order to be succesful, this will require real contributions from all levels and sectors.
It is my firm belief that in order to make any real change in the fight against alcohol-related harm, the efforts must be high not only on the public health agenda, but also on the agenda of all stakeholders, including schools, employers, NGOs, alcoholic drinks producers, distributors, the advertising and media industries, local/national authorities, Member States and the European Union.
I am therefore very satisfied to see today such an impressive group of partners ready to set up the European Alcohol and Health Forum, and to establish a common platform for all willing to devote more time and resources to taking meaningful actions on alcohol-related harm. I am particularly happy that your common commitment puts special emphasis on actions to protect children and young people, promoting responsibility and preventing irresponsible commercial communication and sales.
Still, I expect much more to come out of this Forum. I expect that you as representatives of the alcoholic beverages industry develop, distribute and market your products in a responsible manner. While I know that much has been done already, there is much scope for further actions regarding advertising, server training, product presentation, and so on.
I expect you as representatives of other economic operators to take on your part of the work; we all know that media, advertisers, retailers, owners of pubs and bars play an extremely important role in changing attitudes and behaviours, especially among young people.
I also expect a broad involvement of NGO's and I would welcome active participations from NGO's outside the public health field; representing social, youth, families and consumer interests; while of course respecting each organisation's scale of resources.
An active interest and participation is expected from all observers; Member States, the World Health Organization, the Organisation of Vine and Wine, and the European Institutions.
The Alcohol and Health Forum will be a very important cornerstone for the implementation of the EU Alcohol Strategy as it will focus on concrete action at European, national and local level.
Another cornerstone will be enhancing the cooperation and commitment of the Member States. The action-oriented approach of the Forum will be accompanied by policy development and coordination between Member States in a Committee on National Policy and Actions.
Better policy coordination at EU level is the third cornerstone: we intend to step up our work across EU policies, as set out in the Communication, to develop synergies with policy areas such as transport policy, education and culture, agriculture and research.
Finally, work across EU institutions will be the fourth cornerstone and I am particularly looking forward to the discussions with the European Parliament and all interested parties.
Finally, I would like to thank all partners for a very active participation in our endeavour to find a mix of policies and tools that would really work. I think that during the preparations we have already managed to build some higher levels of trust and a tentative willingness for groups, which have traditionally not been involved in the process, to participate in the work.
The Commission is determined, in co-operation with all Member States, stakeholders and institutions, to take forward meaningful actions that can contribute towards the protection of our citizens, and especially our young people, from alcohol-related harm – but we need your both your commitment and contributions for more and better results.
I hope that the Forum will show that providing a common platform for stakeholder cooperation will be a "winning concept".