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Health ministers explore EU-wide solutions to tackle alcohol related harm in Europe

At the 21 July informal meeting in Tallinn, the EU ministers for health discussed the issue of reducing alcohol-related harm in Europe.

The focus was on the cross-border aspects, having a significant impact on the implementation of national policies.

The Estonian Minister for health and labour, Jevgeni Ossinovski said: "Alcohol puts a heavy burden on EU population, contributing to over 200 health conditions and societal costs reaching up to 372 billion euros every year. It is our common problem affecting people of all ages across the EU."

In the past, several Member States have stressed the need for a stronger EU alcohol policy during their presidency - Luxembourg (2015), Latvia (2015), Poland (2011), Sweden (2009), Finland (2006), Ireland (2004).

Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis, stressed that: ‘’our shared goal is to reduce alcohol related harm by 10%, as set out in the World Health Organisation's (WHO) global action plan’’.

Dr Gauden Galea from the WHO Regional Office for Europe gave a presentation on labelling of alcoholic beverages. "In the EU, a consumer may learn the content of bread or milk down to almost every molecule. But what is inside an alcoholic drink, remains unknown. Labelling alone does not solve the problem of alcohol related harm, but gives people the opportunity to make informed choices" commented Minister Ossinovski.

An introductory presentation for discussions was also given by Dr Maris Jesse, Deputy Secretary General on Health, from the Ministry of Social Affairs of Estonia. The presentation gave an overview of the opinions of member states' health professionals about the alcohol policy issues that require joint discussions Ministers stressed the need to protect the youth from alcohol advertising, emphasising the challenges presented by the new media.

Health ministers agreed on the need for further discussions on the cross-border issues of alcohol policy at EU level. The Estonian Presidency will continue to work on these issues and the Council will come back to cross-border aspects of alcohol policy (including advertising and labelling of alcoholic beverages) in December at the Council meeting of health ministers in Brussels. ‘’For our presidency, it is of vital importance to increase EU-wide cooperation to develop successful tools to combat the problem of harmful use of alcohol in our societies" concluded Ossinovski.

Photo source: Estonian presidency website