European alcohol strategy is still valid

We are fighting for documents. Alcohol policy documents that should become a basis for real life alcohol policies that will regulate the way alcohol is produced, sold and marketed. Also the way people should behave and act when it comes to drinking.
Either we are speaking about a global alcohol strategy, European alcohol strategy, national plan or for instance also the Nordic Councils proposal to formulate a pan-Nordic alcohol policy document. These are all extremely important milestones that gives mandate for policy- and lawmakers to decide what should be OK and what not and what should shape the way our societies should act in coming years. Last decade have been extremely effective – in 2006 we got first European alcohol strategy, in 2010 first global strategy (WHO). Several countries have adopted their own national strategic papers. These have been historic steps. No doubt about that. But it’s all only half of the way. In my country there is a saying that driving licences are not driving by themselves.
These strategies have their priority themes and action points – areas which are of special concern. I personally think that for instance mentioning of protection of the unborn child from alcohol exposure among the five priority themes of the EU strategy has in itself a huge importance. But now we should focus more on action that these papers should produce. And we have to admit that we have expected more.
We, as public health NGO-s, have also different roles at different times. It is one thing to advocate for adopting a strategy paper and it is another thing to work for implementation of the existing strategy. Until 2006 we didn’t have that experience in the international level. Can we say that it is much easier to demand a strategy than to be a constructive partner in making sure that the goals of the strategy are reached?
International public health community is disappointed that European Commission didn’t renew the European Alcohol Strategy but we shouldn’t forget or deny that the commission insists that the existing strategy is still valid which means it is THE paper that we have to work with. Still.
Sure, we shouldn’t abandon our role demanding a new and stronger strategy for 2014-2020, but it might be a dangerous route if we end up focusing on new and better document that we don’t have and forget the importance of the document that we do have.

Lauri Beekmann is a secretary general of NordAN