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17 December 2020
CARE, - Healthcare

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Commission presented its Communication on ‘Building a European Health Union: Reinforcing the EU’s resilience for cross-border health threats’. The Commission’s intention to strengthen EU’s health resilience by offering a vision for a European Health Union was previously announced in the State of the Union address of its President, Ursula von der Leyen.

A unified vision for a European Health Union

The Communication outlines initiatives that aim, among others, to enable a stronger EU health security framework, improve supply of medicines, enhance preparedness and response in times of crisis, and better epidemiological surveillance.

The Commission also sees a European Health Union as part of the joint effort to improve environmental and planetary health, as put forward by the EU Green Deal. The initiative highlights the strong links between human health and the fight against climate change, the preservation of biodiversity, and the removal of pollution from the environment.

The call for a reinforced role for EU health agencies

Among other proposals, the Commission emphasised the importance of strengthening the 2 key EU agencies in the area of health: the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

In practical terms, the Commission plans to increase resources and permanent staff of the 2 agencies and vest them with an extended mandate to:

  • Upgrade the role of EMA in addressing shortages of medicines and medical devices via permanent EU Executive Steering Groups
  • Improve tackling health threats by establishing a permanent EMA emergency Task Force
  • Strengthen the ECDC’s access to health data for research purposes, in the context of the European Health Data Space
  • Reinforce coordination via the development and implementation of EU health crisis/pandemic preparedness and response plan involving ECDC
  • Enable better coordination between EMA and ECDC on clinical trials infrastructure and vaccine monitoring

EFA in favor of a stronger EU role on health

EFA has supported a stronger EU role on health in all possible aspects: both independently and in coordination with other health groups such as the EU4Health Civil Society Alliance. European citizens expect more from the EU to protect their health, and the vulnerabilities revealed by the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated this clearly.

EFA has highlighted the importance of ensuring an ambitious long-term budget for health. This should be a fundamental element in EU’s effort to improve public health, reduce healthcare inequalities, promote digital health, and increase prevention to protect the lives of vulnerable populations such as chronic respiratory patients.

We look forward to engaging in meaningful discussions during the upcoming Conference on the Future of Europe on how to make this European Health Union as strong and effective as possible. In the meantime, EFA will closely follow the roll-out of the initiatives included in this communication, to see that the perspectives of chronic respiratory patients are adequately reflected in them.

Read here the European Commission presented its Communication on ‘Building a European Health Union: Reinforcing the EU’s resilience for cross-border health threats’