Nessa Childers, MEP for Dublin, criticised the objections raised by eleven EU countries, including France and Germany, against Ireland’s alcohol bill, and urged the European Commission to defend Ireland’s right to legislate in the interests of public health.
Ms. Childers said: “Alcohol is not just any commodity the peddling of which must be safeguarded against each and every possible constraint that conflicts with a strict reading of the internal market rules.
“On the contrary, even though it is a legal substance, alcohol is an addictive drug which the EU acknowledges as a major public health concern that accounts for close to one out of ten instances of illness and premature death in Europe.
“The legislation that the Irish government is trying to push through is a well-thought out, pioneering approach to public health law in Europe and should be commended and hailed as best practice for the whole continent.
“The idea that regulating the advertisement, marketing, minimum pricing and labelling of alcohol drinks constitutes a barrier to free trade should strike us all as a ridiculous strategy in the defence of the vested interests of the alcohol industry.
“We are supposedly hindering the freedom of alcohol traders, as we supposedly impinge on big tobacco’s branding copyrights when we impose plain packaging for cigarette packs.
“Yet, the Commission has voiced competition concerns about the Irish Public Health Alcohol Bill.
“Hands down, I commend the Irish government for having taken bold steps with this and tobacco legislation.
“But I do hope the government realises that the current thrust of international trade policy, which it supports so unreservedly, as is the case with the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), tips the balance of priorities even further towards trade against other priorities.
“This battle is tough enough without us walking blindly into a regime that sees all public policy in terms of its impact on trade.”