Discours de Lydia Mutsch à l'occasion de la 7e conférence européenne des politiques en matière d’alcool

Discours – Publié le

"Dear ministers,

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very honoured to open the second day of the 7thEuropean Alcohol Policy Conference.

And allow me to address my warmest thanks to my dear colleague Milojka Kolar Celarc for having invited me to this conference.

Milojka - I still remember that you first mentioned the conference to me during the Health ministers’ Council in Luxembourg back in June this year and I was immediately excited by the idea of participating to this important event.

Because just like you, I do not get tired of stressing the negative effects of the harmful use of alcohol.

The Luxembourg Presidency in 2015 gave me a very welcomed occasion to do so indeed.

Initially, we had not planned to include this topic in our priorities.

But during the Latvian Presidency (first half of 2015), not only the ministers, but also the members of the European Parliament and the NGOs expressed a very strong call in favour of a new EU Alcohol Strategy that could ensure a follow-up of the first Strategy which expired in 2012.

And this call put us in front of a clear evidence: we have to continue to take this plea forward and put it high on the political agenda.

Given the reluctance of the Commission to join in this call, Council Conclusions seemed to be the most appropriate instrument to do so: because, although Council Conclusions are not a legally binding document, they put a certain political pressure on Member States and on the Commission.

So we took the legacy and strong mandate that had been given to us by the Latvian Presidency very seriously and we started immediately to elaborate a draft document which we presented to the Member States for discussion during the first week after the start of our Presidency.

Thanks to the strong support of some Member States, with Slovenia leading the path, we managed to finalise the content of the Conclusions in a record time of not even two meetings of the Council working group.

The result is an ambitious text of which I would like to recall the main elements – because events like this conference offer a great opportunity to fill political texts with live and to grant them renewed visibility: First, the Conclusions invite Member States to promote a multi-sectoral approach as regards the reduction of alcohol-related harm at national and EU level and to strengthen or develop comprehensive national strategies tailored to specific local and regional traditions; but also to protect young people from the harmful use of alcohol, notably in the field of the legal drinking age, marketing exposure information and education on the harmful use of risky drinking behaviour.

But the Conclusions also contain invitations which are equally addressed to Member States and the Commission, notably in areas where they can meanfully act together – such as:
  • The identification of best practices to reduce the harmful use of alcohol;
  • The support given to the Committee on National Alcohol Policy and Action in favour of the implementation of an EU Alcohol strategy,
  • The gathering of information at EU level on the implementation of alcohol-related national legislation,

Finally, the most important invitation is the one addressed to the Commission alone – as a matter of fact, the Conclusions were mainly written because of this invitation which is the call to put forward by the end of 2016 a dedicated and comprehensive EU Alcohol Strategy as a follow up of the first EU Alcohol Strategy taking into account the very valuable work done already by the World Health Organisation in the field of the reduction of harmful use of alcohol.

Today, we are exactly at the end of 2016 and we still haven’t seen any new EU Alcohol Strategy tabled by the Commission – although everyone agrees that alcohol is a major preventable risk factor for public health and that we need to increase our efforts to prevent alcohol related harm.

I am not here today to elaborate on the possible reasons of this situation.

I would only like to limit myself to say that this is obviously very regretful indeed but that this should not stop us from continuing to act, be it together on the European scene or at the national level.

Luxembourg has resolutely chosen this road by investing ever greater efforts in supporting the Joint Action on Reduction Alcohol Related Harm and by stressing the need to provide for a second Joint Action in the EU health Program’s annual work plan for 2017.

The Conclusions also helped to accelerate the intensity of the works on our national alcohol action plan aiming to fight against excessive consumption of alcohol, with a focus on young people under 30 years.

Our action plan, which should become operational within the next months, aims to ensure a concrete follow up of the invitation addressed by the Council Conclusions to Member States to elaborate overarching and comprehensive national strategies.

The Luxembourg action plan indeed tackles action stretching from prevention, to early detection, health promotion, therapeutic support, best practice identification on to rehabilitation.

I sincerely hope that this action plan will allow me to reduce alcohol-related morbidity and mortality, to increase the quality of life of those suffering from alcohol misuse but also to strengthen the collective responsibility of the society as a whole in preventing harmful use of alcohol.

To conclude, I want to highlight the need for action at all levels of our society to reduce alcohol-related harm.Alcoholism – just like drug dependence – is not a moral issue.

Alcohol misuse and addiction affect not just the concerned person, but everyone around and close to him.

Misuse of alcohol and further on addiction is a multi-faceted condition that requires a multi-modal intervention based on prevention, pharmacological intervention but also psychological support.

It is necessary for all stakeholders to work hand-in-hand in order to reach out effectively to the community.

I am confident that by relentlessly adopting and introducing public health actions against the misuse of alcohol we create the conditions necessary to change the current trend.

To achieve a long lasting and sustainable change, we must ensure the continuity of the efforts invested together and that we take advantage of the results achieved.The commitment and support of broader communities is crucial. 

I am sure that the evidence presented here in Ljubljana will provide invaluable insights to all of us.And I hope that the outcome of this Conference will succeed in stirring the attention of all the actors on the European scene and in Brussels! 

Thank you for your attention."