European Alcohol Policy Conference
Final Press Release

Warsaw, 21 June 2004

Press release

Common policy on alcohol and alcohol-related problems in Europe

Research has shown that every fourth young European aged 15-29 dies for reasons related to drinking of alcohol.  In Eastern Europe, alcohol is a cause of every third death among young people!  Each year, approx. 55 thousand young Europeans die as a result of negative effects of alcohol overuse[1].  Indirect costs of alcohol drinking related to social welfare, healthcare, insurance, administration of justice and prison management, and costs related with losses in the production sector represent a considerable portion of the total income of the community of Europe (1-3%)[2].  The European Commission has estimated that one fourth of all deaths related with road accidents are caused by alcohol.  The costs related with drinking and driving in EU approximate EUR 40 billion a year[3].

The European countries are the largest consumers of alcohol worldwide, and the extent of damage, number of diseases and early deaths caused by alcohol overuse are still growing[4].  The European Alcohol Action Plan 2000–2005, based on scientific analyses and data, recommends undertaking structured action aimed at mitigating damage in this respect.  However, the results of research and numerical data available regarding alcohol problems are still insufficiently drawn upon in the process of developing and implementing specific strategies of preventive, educational and therapeutic activities.  Currently, a project is in progress related to developing a common EU alcohol policy called a Policy on Alcohol for Europe, which would provide guidance to EU member states concerning areas of special attention in the process of mitigating damage caused by alcohol. 

From 16 to 19 June 2004, the first international conference devoted to the common EU policy on alcohol and alcohol-related problems was held in Warsaw.  The conference “Bridging the Gap. Alcohol policymaking in the context of a larger Europe.”  was organized by the State Agency for Prevention of Alcohol Related Problems and Eurocare, and co-financed by the European Commission.

The purpose of the conference was to develop ready solutions in the areas of developing and implementing the EU policy on alcohol.  The expected result of the conference was to create within the region a network of partners working on developing and executing preventive and therapeutic programmes in this area.  The conference was addressed to persons developing the foundations of the alcohol policy and implementing preventive and therapeutic programmes, specialists in the area of health, government and non-government officials of various levels, scientists, scholars, professionals dealing with therapy and psychological assistance to persons dependent on alcohol and their families.  It was also addressed to persons responsible for public health, political marketing, public education, safety on roads, etc.  The conference was opened by Ms Barbara Labuda, MP Minister and Secretary of State of the Chancellery of the President of Poland.  The Minister also decorated persons who distinguished themselves in the field of prevention and alcohol-related problem solving in Poland.  The conference was attended by representatives of the European Commission, World Health Organisation and non-government organisations and governmental departments from 25 European countries.

The Building Bridges project financed by the European Commission and planned for the years 2004–2006 is an attempt at developing a common policy on alcohol in the European Union member states.  The goal of the Warsaw conference was to create a network of links and possibilities of cooperation between the worlds of politics, science and practice within the region.  The meeting became a forum for sharing experience relating to action plans in the public health and social welfare sector in the context of alcohol-related problem solving.  The conference participants responsible for developing the policy on alcohol and implementing specific programmes on the local, state or European level had an opportunity of sharing their knowledge and experience and benefit from the solutions already adopted by other countries and communities.

The conference was held under the honorary auspices of Ms Barbara Labuda, MP Minister and Secretary of State of the Chancellery of the President of Poland and Ms Danuta Hübner, EU Commissioner.  The media patronage over the conference was assumed by: Rzeczpospolita daily, Program I Polskiego Radia radio channel and Program I Telewizji Polskiej TV channel.

[1] The European Health Report, WHO Europe 2002; European Conference of adolescence, alcohol and drugs:  Copenhagen & Stockholm, 19 luty 2001 "Alcohol - number one killer of young men in Europe" 

[2] IAS Factsheet 2003: Economic costs and benefits

[3] Raport Eurocare: Drinking and Driving 2004