cares alcohol-and-health european-alcohol-and-health-forum-there-is-nothing-like-a-human-interaction
It seems that at the moment the European Commission is planning to move all its interactions with stakeholders online, which in times of digital revolution might seem to make sense. But as the current lockdown due to COVID-19 is proving there is nothing like a human interaction and we sincerely hope that the European Commission will resume human dialogues with its stakeholders.
The European Alcohol and Health Forum (EAHF) has been established as one of the instruments to implement the 2006 EU Alcohol Strategy. It was a platform where entities active at the European level could compare approaches and act to tackle harmful levels of alcohol consumption. EAHF was governed by the Charter.
The EU Alcohol Strategy expired in 2012, as stated in the Strategy document itself:
With this Communication, the Commission, in response to the Council’s invitation in 2001, presents a comprehensive strategy to reduce alcohol-related harm in Europe until the end of 2012 (…)
The public health actors have on numerous occasions called on the European Commission to develop a new strategy fit for the XXI century taking into account digital developments. Similarly, Member States and the European Parliament back in 2015 called on for a new comprehensive Strategy to tackle alcohol harm in Europe.
Unfortunately, all these calls have fallen on death ears of the European Commission officials. In 2015, when at that time Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Andriukaitis announced that the European Commission had no plans to develop a new EU Alcohol Strategy, more than 20 public health organisations resigned from the EAHF.
At that time (back in 2015), the European Commission was trying to include alcohol as a part of the chronic disease strategy. That strategy never came to fruition either.
Over the last 5 years, due to personal commitment and drive of the Commissioner Andriukaitis, the public health organisations entered a dialogue with the European Commission. This resulted in a new revised methodology. In 2018 the European Commission conducted a meeting, where all but one (but later on that stakeholders also supported the new terms) organisations welcomed the new way of working.
However, in a Twitter discussion last year, the European Commission services had a rather surprising interpretation of the meeting. Chief of Cabinet of Commissioner Andriukaitis - Arūnas Vinčiūnas claimed that:
‘(…) that to have a meeting you need the participants to agree to it. Despite constant efforts by @EU_Health it was not possible to bridge the conditionalities.’
Even though the European Commission’s own minutes reported overwhelming agreement for continued structured dialogue between the European Commission and the stakeholders on the issue of alcohol:
All but one participant were in favour of relaunching the Forum with the new methodology (the Standing Committee of European Doctors (CPME)) abstained, needing more time to officially consult its members – but definitely interested in moving forward along the new methodology);
At that time (in 2018), the European Commission noted:
Conclusions/minutes of the meeting as well as the proposed next steps will be shared with the meeting participants in due time.
Two years have passed and the situation is in a ‘limbo’, on occasion some MEPs will ask the European Commission, as recently done by César Luena, who inquired:
1 When does the Commission expect the findings of the ongoing review of the European Alcohol and Health Forum to be made available?
2 Does the Commission intend to preserve the founding spirit of the Forum by encouraging all the representatives of the sector and the stakeholders to work collaboratively?
3 What action does the Commission intend to take to ensure that the Forum can resume its work during this new parliamentary term?
In its reply the European Commission services said:
In December 2019, the Commission received from an external contractor a state-of-play assessment on the functioning of the European Alcohol and Health Forum.The assessment aimed to evaluate the impact of the European Alcohol and Health Forum on public health. The results of the assessment are currently being examined by the Commission.In the meantime, discussions and interaction with stakeholders will continue through already existing online stakeholder networks on the EU Health Policy Platform
It seems that at the moment the European Commission is planning to move all its interactions with stakeholders online, which in times of digital revolution might seem to make sense.
But as the current lockdown due to COVID-19 is proving there is nothing like a human interaction and we sincerely hope that the European Commission will resume human dialogues with its stakeholders.