Brussels, 12 November 2013: In an open letter published in the Parliament Magazine Pierre-Olivier Bergeron, Secretary General of The Brewers argues that tackling alcohol misuse requires dialogue, partnerships and above all action.
Europe’s brewers welcome calls to turn EU policy into action. Indeed that is the Commission’s approach in setting up a commitment-based EU Alcohol and Health Forum in 2007 and in DG SANCO currently developing an action plan in support of the current EU Strategy on alcohol-related harm. ‘Action’ is an approach that we fully support.
Brewers brew their beers to be consumed in moderation and are not interested in volumes from the misuse of their beers. As we all know, excessive alcohol consumption carries a health risk, and we must work together to address this. This is why brewers have made over 100 of the total 250 commitments to the Forum. And this is equally why brewers committed to stepping up even further with the European Beer Pledge. These are commitments to take action.
This ‘partnership’ approach is delivering, explaining why leading NGOs and governments at local level have partnered with brewers in many of the Forum commitments by brewing companies and national brewers’ associations. These include National Societies of Gynecology, Consumer Unions, National, regional and local governments, Driving School Associations, Police Directorates, Dietician Associations, Road Safety Councils, Youth NGOs, and Medical Associations. And concrete results, in terms of implementation, consumer awareness and, where possible, consumer behaviour are reported through the Forum’s audited reporting mechanism and the Worldwide Brewing Alliance’s Initiatives database.
Earlier this year, the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC), the premier EU NGO on road safety, announced the three-year Sober Mobility Across Road Transport (SMART) partnership with The Brewers of Europe; the first ever joint Forum commitment by a pan-European business association in collaboration with a pan-European NGO. The SMART project was launched by MEPs in the European Parliament just this week at an event gathering policymakers, industry and NGOs.
The pioneering SMART programme is the ideal way to build on decades of awareness-raising partnerships against drink driving supported by Europe’s brewers. And we are not the only ones who think so. Announcing the project, ETSC said: “We need cooperation from across the range of public and private stakeholders to further our commitment to tackle drink driving, including the road safety community, the public health and medical community, alcohol industry and others.”
It’s not only on combating drink-driving where we have stepped up. European Commission President Barroso praised the Brewers’ pan-European Forum commitment on beer advertising, saying, “I would like to commend the efforts of your sector to introduce self-regulation to promote responsible beer advertising across Europe. […] Own-initiatives like this and pro-active involvement of industry representations are an excellent example of industry working with regulators to make legislation truly smart. In the same vein, I commend your action and commitment to addressing alcohol-related harm.”
The recent independent evaluation of the EU Forum showed that there is an opportunity to improve the measurement of commitments. Those committed to action should take up this challenge to identify and then disseminate the best practices.
While Eurocare’s call for action is welcome, the choice of some organisations to leave the Forum does not seem compatible with ‘action’. Similarly, the choice of some to oppose any partnerships with the brewing sector is not ‘action’. And bemoaning the presence of economic operators in the Forum is not ‘action’.
For some, the brewing sector’s continued efforts and unwavering commitment to the EU’s strategy will never be enough. However, we will continue to be part of the fight against alcohol misuse and demonstrate our commitment through dialogue, partnership – and above all – action. It’s what citizens and policymakers expect.
Simon Spillane, Communications Senior Advisor, The Brewers of Europe
+32 (0)2 551 1810; email@example.com
Pierre-Olivier Bergeron’s letter can be seen in full at http://www.theparliament.com/latest-news/article/newsarticle/europes-brewers-welcome-calls-to-turn-eu-alcohol-policy-into-action/. His letter followed the publication of an open editorial from Mariann Skar, Secretary General of Eurocare, expressing NGOs’ high hopes for the planned EU action plan on alcohol, in the face of the recent resignation from the EU Alcohol Health Forum of a few hard-line NGO members of Eurocare.
For more than a half century The Brewers of Europe has been the Brussels-based voice of the European brewing sector towards the European institutions and international organisations. Founded in 1958, it has 29 members, comprising 25 national brewer associations from the EU, plus Croatia, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey. Among the roughly 4000 brewers across Europe, the vast majority are small and medium-sized, local and family-run businesses. 2 million jobs are created by the European brewing sector.