Action programmes fostering partnerships and bringing together regional and national authorities to promote the care of depressed patients are urgently needed. In 2001 the 'Nuremberg Alliance Against Depression' was initiated as a community-based model project within the large-scale 'German Research Network on Depression and Suicidality' (Kompetenznetz 'Depression, Suizidalität'). The 'Nuremberg Alliance Against Depression' was an action programme, conducted in the city of Nuremberg (500,000 inhabitants) in 2001/2002, addressing four intervention levels (Hegerl et al. Psychol Med 2006;36:1225). Based on the positive results of the Nuremberg project (a significant reduction of suicidal behaviour by more than 20%) 18 international partners representing 16 different European countries established the 'European Alliance Against Depression' (EAAD) in 2004. Based on the four-level approach of the Nuremberg project, all regional partners initiated respective regional intervention programmes addressing depression and suicidality. Evaluation of the activities takes place on regional and international levels. This paper gives a brief overview of the background for and experiences with the EAAD. It describes the components of the programme, provides the rationale for the intervention and outlines the current status of the project. The aim of the paper is to disseminate information about the programme's potential to reduce suicidal behaviour and to provide examples of how European community-based 'best practice' models for improving the care of depressed patients and suicidal persons can be implemented using a bottom-up approach. EAAD is mentioned by the European commission as a best practice example within the Green Paper 'Improving the mental health of the population: Towards a strategy on mental health for the European Union' (European Commission 2005).