Welcome to the new Health Commissioner

We are witnessing a promising change in the European Commission as the former Lithuanian Health Minister Mr Vytenis Andriukaitis has been designated as a new European Commissioner for the Health Policy and Food Safety portfolio.

It is promising because in Lithuania mr Andriukaitis has been a man of his words and alcohol issues have been clearly in his agenda. “I am very happy that Vytenis Adnriukaitis will be responsible for health and food safety at EU level,” said Aurelijus Veryga, who is the Lithuanian NordAN board member. “This makes me more optimistic about possible development and transparency in this field in EU. I hope that he will continue dialogue with NGO’s working in the public health field and we will see positive public health developments in the EU in the very near future. I wish him all the best.”

It will be a tough task as there is a strong pressure from the public health organisations to start a process for a new and stronger European Alcohol Strategy. No doubt there are other pressures that are motivated by economic interests but that´s why strong and determined leadership is important.

Among the 10 policy areas in the WHO´s Global Alcohol Strategy nr 1 is Leadership, awareness and commitment. “Sustainable action requires strong leadership and a solid base of awareness and political will and commitment.”

This is probably something that we take so often for granted or at least we would like to expect that the chosen leaders are up for the challenges. As public health is seen to compete with economic interests and policy options that support the health of people often restrict too open and aggressive production and marketing, sector that brings revenue seems to have an upper hand. It demands public health leaders to be strong advocates and determined in their mission not to loose sight.

Mr Andriukaitis is coming from a country with one of the highest drinking rates in EU. Alcohol related harm is devastating this small country which means that for our new Commissioner alcohol should above all mean public health and not agricultural issues. From past year we know for instance that he is supporting stronger limitations for alcohol advertising. A year ago he proposed new amendments to the Law on Alcohol Control of Lithuania to ban all outdoor advertising as well as advertising in print media and internet. It is also important to mention that he proposed these changes without a clear support of his own political party. That shows something about his personality.

But he has to work with everybody and compromise will be part of his work. With what will he compromise, shows what kind of leader will he be.

We wish him all the best and hope for a good cooperation with NordAN, Eurocare and other public health oriented NGO-s.

Lauri Beekmann
Secretary General of NordAN