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National government representatives have given the green light to a new EU Strategy on Alcohol: The Committee on National Alcohol Policy and Action (CNAPA) of national experts has adopted a scoping paper on the EU approach to harmful use of alcohol and alcohol related harm. The document contains the main elements that CNAPA would like to see in a new EU Alcohol Strategy.

National governments are largely responsible for their own alcohol policies, however these were previously complemented by an EU Alcohol Strategy which expired in 2012 and has yet to be replaced or updated. The Strategy was adopted by the European Commission in 2006, with the aim to prevent and reduce the negative consequences of harmful alcohol use.

Considering this, the CNAPA (Committee on National Alcohol Policy and Action), founded in November 2007, has recently adopted a scoping paper, in which Member States call on the European Commission to develop a new strategy to tackle the harmful use of alcohol and alcohol related harm.

Scoping Paper by CNAPA – European Commission – EU Alcohol Strategy

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Facts and figures
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– According to WHO, alcohol is the third leading risk factor for disease and mortality in Europe.

– The EU is the region with the highest alcohol consumption in the world.

– Alcohol related harm includes long term health implications, such as liver cirrhosis and cancer, as well as costs to society through reduced work capability, reduced productivity and costs to health care systems. For instance, the societal costs of alcohol consumption in the EU for 2010 were estimated at €155.8 billion. A forthcoming OECD report on the costs of alcohol to society will update this figure.

– Harmful alcohol consumption makes a significant contribution to health inequalities between and within the Member States.

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New strategy
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The external evaluation of the EU Alcohol Strategy carried out in 2012 confirmed the relevance and usefulness of its approach and of its priority themes. It reiterated the need to improve the function of both CNAPA and the European Alcohol and Health Forum to ensure greater efficacy.

Member States are calling on the Commission to work towards a new and ambitious strategy based on the following four principles:
Comprehensive, in addressing all forms of harmful alcohol use
Systematic, in focusing on both behavioural and structural prevention
Engaging, in involving the positive potential of all relevant policy sectors
Building on evidence-based policies.

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CNAPA’s proposals
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Recognition of the WHO global strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol as the basis for the structure of a new EU Strategy to secure a comprehensive and systematic approach.

A new Strategy should include specific actions, issues for consideration and policy options for each target area, indicating clearly the areas of responsibility for the Commission and the Member States.
A monitoring and reporting system should be established to allow the implementation of the strategy to be assessed on a regular basis.
The importance of civil society should be recognised for building capacity and networking, including improving mechanisms for good practice and information exchange.

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Relevance of a new strategy
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In addition to what is already in place at national and global levels, the real added value of an EU strategy is the work on policy areas where Member States need EU support to act effectively, in particular on cross-border and internal market issues, which need to be placed centre stage in a new strategy.

A new EU strategy can also be very helpful in highlighting effective and cost-effective options for action in different fields below EU level.
The urgent need for a comprehensive alcohol policy framework means the European Commission needs to begin work immediately on a new EU Alcohol Strategy (2016-2020) to provide effective support for national governments, and a comprehensive and updated policy framework to tackle alcohol-related harm.

The scoping paper presented by CNAPA is a major step towards effectively tackling alcohol related harm and harmful use of alcohol in Europe. In a Europe that is still facing challenges from the economic crisis, reducing alcohol related harm is important in contributing to a healthy workforce and reducing costs for health care services, in line with the strategic aims of the Europe 2020 Strategy.

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