In 2001 the European Commission presented a 'Community strategy against Antimicrobial Resistance'. In previous years, the problem was addressed through an increasing number of isolated measures, but in this strategy the Commission outlined a comprehensive European Community approach across all sectors. The strategy consists of fifteen actions in four key areas: surveillance, prevention, research and product development, and international cooperation. An important part of this strategy is the 'Council Recommendation on the prudent use of antimicrobial agents in human medicine'. The Recommendation provides a detailed set of public health actions to contain antimicrobial resistance. This paper presents the eleven points of action of the strategy that are directly related to human medicine, and discusses related European Community activities. Under the new public health programme as well as under the research programme of the European Union, antimicrobial resistance is a key priority.