Cervical cancer incidence and mortality can be reduced substantially by organised cytological screening at 3 to 5 year intervals, as was demonstrated in the Nordic countries, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and parts of Italy. Opportunistic screening, often proposed at yearly schedules, has also reduced the burden of cervical cancer in some, but not all, of the other old member states (belonging to the European Union since 1995) but at a cost that is several times greater. Well organised screening programmes have the potential to achieve greater participation of the target population at regular intervals, equity of access and high quality. Despite the consistent evidence that organised screening is more efficient than non-organised screening, and in spite of the Cancer Screening Recommendations of the European Council, health authorities of eight old member states (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Luxembourg, Portugal and Spain) have not yet started national organised implementation of screening for cervical cancer. A decision was made by the Irish government to extend their pilot programme nationally while new regional programmes commenced in Portugal and Spain. Introduction of new methods of prevention, such as HPV screening and prophylactic HPV vaccination, can reduce the burden further, but this will require a high level of organisation with particular attention needed for the maximisation of population coverage, compliance with evidence-based guidelines, monitoring of data enabling continued evaluation and improvement of the preventive programmes.