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Europe under the influence

Carrying on from his in vestigation into the lobbying activities of the alcohol industry in the UK, Jonathan Gornall finds that the industry is using similar tactics to influence Europe’s alcohol policy.

The success of the drinks industry in keeping UK regulation at bay is overshadowed by the scale of its impact in Europe, a region in which the overall consumption of alcohol is more than twice the world’s average and where, according to the latest estimate, nearly 138 000 people died prematurely of alcohol attributable causes in 2004 alone. Put another way, among those aged 15-64, the deaths of one in seven men and one in 13 women are caused by alcohol.

Despite these shocking statistics, the European Commission has offered no resistance to the alcohol industry. Worse, under the auspices of its 2007 alcohol strategy it has instead collaborated with industry’s preference for self regulation, building it a voluntary platform from which it can shout loudly about corporate responsibility and voluntary commitments, concepts that have proved largely ineffective in preventing the health harms caused by its products

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