Alcohol Policy Network - First Meeting
Warsaw, 15-16 Jun 2004
Notes of Meeting

1. Partners:Following an introduction of all the partners, the Alcohol Policy Network (APN) was informed that the representatives of Bulgaria and Turkey had unfortunately been unable to attend, while no suitable partner organisation had been found in Cyprus.  It was also noted that there was no representative from Lithuania as they have not signed the Commission’s public health agreement, but that the Eurocare staff are attempting to work around this restriction.  Finally, the APN were made aware that the country partner for Greece had withdrawn from the project, but it was hoped that a new partner would be found in the near future.

2. European Parliament: The role of the APN in engaging with new Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) was discussed.  It was noted that Eurocare are intending to organise a conference with these MEPs later this year in conjunction with the European Public Health Alliance – APN members will be invited to this conference and it was hoped that a number of APN organisations will be able to attend.

3. Country Reports: 26 of the total of 28 preliminary country reports had been completed.  Of the two outstanding reports, one country representative was expected to submit their completed preliminary report in the near future, while the other report was awaiting the agreement of a new partner in Greece.

4. Country Groups Discussion: The following points emerged as themes in the discussion:

a. Lack of enforcement of policy was felt to be a problem where such policy exists.

b. The difficulties of implementing effective alcohol control policies with a background of illegal supply of alcohol were noted.

c. Evidence of effective policies from other countries would be very useful for national campaigning in different APN countries.  It was also noted that this could play a vital role in helping to overcome prejudices and misunderstandings about alcohol policy between APN members.

d. The importance of tracking the activities of the alcohol industry across Europe was stressed.

e. A need to involve a broader range of people in alcohol policy activities was noted, including greater engagement with the general public and politicians as well as greater intersectoral cooperation.  It was noted that the completion of the country reports could play a role in facilitating the creation of country coalitions.

f. It was agreed that there was a need to assert that alcohol was no ordinary commodity in the context of international trade agreements.

g. The need for adequate funding for research was also raised.

h. The effect of alcohol on non-drinkers could be used more in advocacy. A need for effective terminology for this point was identified (e.g. “passive drinking”), and APN members were invited to submit any suggestions they had in this regard.

Alcohol Policy for Europe

5. Overall Need: The need for the Alcohol Policy for Europe (“the document”) was agreed.  It was also noted that partners were expected to agree with the final document in spirit, but that they were not being asked to put their name to each detail by formally or legally signing the document. 

6. Title:The following variants on the title of the policy were suggested:

a. “Alcohol Policy for Europe and the challenge of reducing the harm done by Alcohol”

b. “A proposal for an Alcohol Policy for Europe”

c. “A vision for an Alcohol Policy for Europe”

d. “A strategy for an Alcohol Policy for Europe”

e. “Tackling alcohol related harm in Europe: a challenge to the European Community”

7. Structure of preamble: it was agreed to include subheadings to make the preamble clearer.  It was also agreed to add the phrase “often leading to intoxication and harm” to the end of point 8.

8. Structure (main):The order of paragraphs in the document was agreed. However, it was further noted that any version of the document for public audiences should pay attention to the impact of ordering these sections differently.

9. Section I:

a. The issue of suggesting policies that are less stringent than currently practiced in certain countries was raised.  It was noted that this problem was considered in the drafting of the policy, and any outstanding concerns in this regard should be communicated to the drafting group. 

b. The BAC level specified in the alcohol policy was also discussed.  It was agreed that those with concerns should meet with the drafting group to consider revising the relevant elements of the policy.

10. Section II:

a. It was agreed to rephrase the statement on peer group education in light of the limited evidence as to its effectiveness.

b. The potential for both family member education and alternative education institutions/cultural education was noted, and it was agreed that the drafting group should consider statements on both of these issues. 

11. Section III.1: The role in relapse of drinks that are classed as non-alcoholic but have low levels of alcoholic content was discussed, but it was agreed that a statement on this matter would not be fully relevant for the document.

12. Section III.6: It was agreed to amend II.5.1 to include the type of shop (e.g. supermarkets) and the closure of premises for selling alcohol to minors (both temporarily for initial offences and indefinitely for repeat offences). 

13.  Section III.7:

a. It was agreed that bans on sports sponsorship and advertising to minors should be included in the document, but that there was insufficient support for a complete ban on alcohol advertising.  It was further agreed that the drafting group should consider a number of other proposals, including the possibility of identifying advertising that appeals to minors through research and a ban on alcohol advertising in public spaces. 

b. The proposal to earmark a proportion of the total expenditure by the alcohol industry on advertising, promotion and sponsorship was discussed at length.  It was agreed that there was insufficient agreement to include this proposal, but that the drafting group should consider other opportunities in the document to secure funding for alcohol control and prevention programmes.

14. All other sections were agreed without amendment.

15.  Additional sections: It was noted that the new Director General of DG SANCO had asked the APN to consider benchmarking of the alcohol industry.  Following this, it was agreed that Peter Anderson should write a draft document on this to be presented to the APN meeting for consideration the following day.  However, a statement on the role of the alcohol industry in alcohol policy was agreed to be unadvisable at this stage.

Wed 16/6/2004

16.  Task Forces:

a. Country Reports: It was noted that the WHO and the EC are both collecting their own data, and that the APN should seek to add value to rather than duplicate this work.  To this end, it was proposed that the template and BtG questionnaire would have a common structure together with space for additional information.  It was agreed that the BtG questionnaire would be distributed in August 2004 to be completed by December 2004, while the Country Report Template would be ready in December 2004 to be completed in draft form before the 2nd APN meeting in May/June 2005.  It was further agreed that Eurocare would provide other data from existing databases. 

b. Advocacy: It was suggested that the format of the training courses should be a four day training course with two tutors running two parallel groups of roughly 15 people, and that a pilot course should be run before the Slovenia training course.  It was proposed that although these courses should be targeted at those new in the field, it was sensible to also train the trainers initially.   WHO-EURO agreed that it could provide a short demonstration of the WHO online databases to the training courses.

For the manual, it was agreed that the task force should advise on the content and that a draft version should be ready by the end of 2004 to enable it to be reviewed in Jan 2005. 

c. Young People: It was noted that there was a need to define young people initially, as well as to recognise in this definition that ‘young people’ are not a homogeneous group despite facing a common situation in the transition from childhood to adulthood.  It was agreed that this group should focus on adolescents and young adults rather than children, including a rough age range of 15-30 years old.  It was decided that the task force should aim to involve young people and give them a voice in the media. 

The European Youth Forum (EYF) agreed to create a working group on the questionnaire to go alongside the theatre sketch which could be considered for performing at the EYF general assembly in November.  It was further agreed that the European Cultural Foundation (ECF) should document the process of the sketch to see if it could be further used as a model, and also consider performing the sketch at other events dependent on funding.  Given that none of the members of the task force had seen the sketch at this time, it was also agreed that the members would comment on the sketch by email and also invite wider APN comment.

Eurocare agreed to identify and contact other structures with a shared interest to both build coalitions and avoid duplication of research with young people.  The EYF agreed to circulate a list of National Youth Councils so that coalitions can be built in this area on a national as well as European level, and the ECF agreed to circulate the details of its 10 resource centres around Europe to interested parties.

Finally, WHO-EURO invited suggestions as to how to assess the implementation of the Stockholm Declaration.

Policy Paper

17. Title: It was agreed that the document’s title should be “A Policy for Europe and Member States: Principles to Reduce the Harm Done by Alcohol” with a note saying this comes from BtG and who BtG are.

18.  Preamble: The Network’s attention was drawn to the preamble in order to clarify the status of the document.  The wording of the preamble and the status of the document was agreed.

19.  Annex on the Alcohol Industry: It was noted that this section of the document needed some deliberation but that it was highly desirable that the full document would be completed in time to present to the new Commissioner on his or her arrival at DG SANCO in November.  It was proposed to convene a working group to draft this annex which would then be circulated to other APN members by email for approval.  It was hoped that the complete document would therefore be ready by the intended deadline in November 2004.  Those APN members who wished to be involved in the drafting of this section of the document were invited to notify Peter Anderson or Florence Berteletti-Kemp of their interest in the period immediately following the meeting.

Meeting Ending

20.  Next meeting: It was agreed that the next meeting of the APN will be the second of half of May 2005 in Slovenia, and that the length of the meeting should be maintained at 1 and 2/3 days.