European Commission Criticized for Subsidizing Alcohol Industry

The European Alcohol Policy Alliance has criticized the European Commission for subsidizing Big Alcohol by supporting the wine industry.

In light of the COVID-19 business downturn which hit the wine industry – like most other industries in the world – the European Commission has reported an “exceptional” package to support the wine sector. Unfortunately the package is only exceptional for the wine industry and would deeply harm public health amidst the existing health, social and economic crisis.

Eurocare, the European Alcohol Policy Alliance, has expressed their disappointed and strongly condemned the European Commission’s decision to give an additional package of exceptional measures of support to the wine industry.

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They say one should not waste a crisis. But the European Commission just did. When it comes to health policy the European Commission has shown that it bows to the powerful lobbies of the wine industry and disregards alcohol’s impact on health. It is very sad that a health crisis is used to get even more tax-payers money from the European Union by the alcohol industry,” said Mariann Skar, Secretary General of Eurocare, as per a press release.

Given the well-recognised carcinogenicity of wine as an alcoholic product and its contribution as a major risk factor to the burden of non-communicable diseases in Europe, Eurocare says it was highly irresponsible for the European Institutions to allow greater than usual support for the wine industry.

The WHO European region continues to have the highest level of alcohol consumption per capita globally and proportionately higher levels of burden of disease attributable to alcohol use compared to other regions. It is therefore irresponsible for the European Commission to promote policies and products that are in direct conflict with public health objectives.

The “exceptional” package

These new measures include the temporary authorization for operators to self-organise market measures, the increase of the European Union’s contribution for wine national support programmes, and the introduction of advance payments for crisis distillation and storage.

The temporary derogation allows operators in the wine industry to self-organise and implement market measures at their level to stabilise their sector and in respect of the functioning of the internal market for a maximum period of six months. For example,  European Commission subsidies will allow wine producers to plan joint promotion activities, to organise storage by private operators and to commonly plan production.

The alcohol industry in general has already been found to employ highly unethical promotional strategies across Europe to protect their profits amidst the crisis. These include schemes of pre-bought beer and free beer vouchers as bars and restaurants open across Europe and around the world after COVID-19 lockdowns.

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The European Union’s contribution for all measures of the national support programmes will increase by 10% and reach 70% which will benefit the wine industry. A previous exceptional measure had already increased it from 50% to 60%.

The Commission will allow Member States to provide advanced payments to operators of the wine industry for on-going distillation and crisis storage operations. These advances can cover up to 100% of costs and will allow Member States to fully utilize their national support programme funds for this year.

Additionally, the wine industry will benefit from EU’s increased contribution to producer organizations.

Increasing public health problems during a pandemic

Wine is an alcohol and like all alcohol is carcinogenic. Alcohol is also a risk factor to a number of chronic diseases (which are a co-founding factor for higher mortality due to COVID-19). Alcohol is known to weaken the immune system making people more susceptible to infections such as COVID-19.

The WHO European region has the highest alcohol consumption globally. Hence, the region has proportionately higher levels of burden of disease attributable to alcohol use compared to other regions.

Considering all these factors, the European Alcohol Policy Alliance has called the European Commission irresponsible for providing more than usual support for the wine industry which is in direct contradiction to public health.

They say one should not waste a crisis. But the European Commission just did. When it comes to health policy the European Commission has shown that it bows to the powerful lobbies of the wine industry and disregards alcohol’s impact on health. It is very sad that a health crisis is used to get even more tax-payers money from the European Union by the alcohol industry,” said Mariann Skar Secretary General of European Alcohol Policy Alliance, as per, Euro Care.

The European Alcohol Policy Alliance stresses that Europe’s economic recovery should be a healthy one in every sense of that word and not use public funds to promote unhealthy products.

For further reading:

STATEMENT OF CONCERN REGARDING THE ALCOHOL INDUSTRY DURING COVID-19 CRISIS

 

Sources:

Eurocare, the European Alcohol Policy Alliance: “In light of coronavirus pandemic, wine industry gets even more EU funding

European Commission: “Coronavirus: Commission adopts new exceptional support measures for the wine sector