First Lady of Estonia Mrs Evelin Ilves at 6th European Alcohol Policy Conference in Brussels, 24 October 2014
Good morning, honored guests. I am glad to be here and have a chance to participate in this conference. Eurocare is doing much important work in creating a platform for us to come together to continue work on a common vision on how to reduce alcohol's harm in Europe - so thank you.
According to the World Health Organization, alcohol is the third leading risk factor for disease and mortality in Europe.
The European continent continues to drink twice the amount of alcohol compared to the world average - in 2010 Europe consumed 10.2 liters of pure alcohol per capita and our collective over-consumption cost Europe 156 billion euros in premature deaths, sickness and lost productivity – this is one expensive habit!
We are often made to believe that changing the role of alcohol in society is almost impossible, because for such a long time alcohol has played a part in the cultural, culinary and agricultural life of European societies. Alcohol has provided significant agricultural and industrial revenues and the industries that alcohol fuels have generated many jobs.
However, given the many complex demographic and economic challenges of the twenty first century, we must see through the PR, come together and take a new, thorough look at alcohol's role in European culture and traditions. We as the policy-makers, influencers of legislation, and researchers, must help to reconsider the role of alcohol also in culture and tradition, and hold ourselves accountable for different policy and regulation when it appears that the revenues from alcohol do not fully cover the costs from the damage over-consumption causes. In order for the role of alcohol in our economies and cultures to change, the legislative and policy environment must also change.'
What could help us convince the many interested stakeholders that over-consumption of alcohol may become incompatible in the long term with an innovative, educated and adaptive workforce that European strategy documents say we need?
An adaptive and smart work force requires well-functioning brains. Perhaps a closer look at what alcohol does to brain development might offer new, convincing perspectives. When I was a medical student in Estonia the early 1990s, the effects of alcohol on the development of the adolescent brain were not yet regularly taught.
Today, at the Office of the President of the Republic, Evelin Ilves, supported by Nordea Bank, presented the 2,100 euro Young Athlete's Prizes to chess player Mai Narva, orienteer Siim Helmoja and swimmer Maria Rein.
"Alcohol is a serious problem across Europe because on average twice as much alcohol is consumed here than in the rest of the world. We have to continue working in the name of a single European alcohol strategy that enables governments to achieve their goals more efficiently," Evelin Ilves said as the keynote speaker of the 6th European Alcohol Policy Conference in Brussels.
From today, a book on bread in both English and Estonian by Evelin Ilves entitled "LEIB. Ilo ja vägi. BREAD. The Beauty & the Might" will be available for sale in book stores. The book is published by Varrak and includes 18 bread recipes. The pictures in the book were taken by photographer Katrina Tang and depict the diversity of Estonian bread, nature and women. Every book purchased will support NGO Saagu Valgus (Let There Be Light), which helps children in need.