07 August 2020
Asthma , COPD, Allergy, Food Allergy, Other Diseases

After days of intensive negotiations, the agreement reached on 21 July in the European Council on the budget for the Covid-19 recovery and the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2021-2027 has been presented as a political breakthrough.

Yet the European Council has reached an agreement at the expense of the EU4Health Programme, which has been downsized from 9,4bn to 1,7bn. Similarly, it contains a substantial reduction in the EU research budget, from 94,4bn to 80,9bn.

EFA patient community consistently standing for a strong EU health budget

Directly affected by the non-communicable diseases epidemic, EFA allergy, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patient communities want to see an ambitious EU budget that drives the highest standards of public health protection, one that pioneers preventative research. People living with allergy and airways diseases expect EU policy interventions to enable equal access to quality care across borders, and better preparedness and sustainability.

In this regard, EFA has always supported forward-looking policies on prevention, access, care and research, a stronger mandate for the European Medicines Agency, as well as promising joint initiatives such as Health Technology Assessment.

Health still not the EU priority despite Covid-19

The European Council agreement came against a background of optimism, following the ambitious proposals of the Commission in May, calling for increased investment in health.

Welcomed by most stakeholders as a much-needed shift of course in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Commission had ‘corrected’ its previous proposals by restoring a stand-alone health programme, and prompting a broader discussion about a stronger EU role in health policy, expected to take a formal shape in the upcoming Conference on the Future of Europe.

The Council decision now puts a question mark on these considerations. On the one hand, it deprives national health systems of a much-needed boost from an ambitious EU Health programme, in a time when the Covid-19 crisis is still raging and EU action on health is more urgently needed than ever. On the other hand, even when the Covid-19 pandemic is putting EU’s health systems at stake, and people’s lives at risk, the health of the millions of chronic disease patients is clearly still not being treated as a key priority at the EU level.

Future EU research capacity undermined

The significant cuts in research funding will have a considerable impact on health research and innovation, an area where the EU aims to gain global leadership.

Moreover, reduction in funding resources are set to affect negatively the EU scientific progress in health research and innovation, including in chronic diseases such as asthma, allergy and COPD, the study of which is notoriously complex and where research need clear policy drivers and incentives.

A “regrettable” compromise

At the end of the negotiations, the Commission President Ursula von der Leyen referred to the cuts in the health budget as a ‘regrettable’ compromise. The European Parliament reacted quickly, expressing its disapproval to the decision and defending the previously allocated budget.

This dismay is voiced by the vast majority of health stakeholders at the EU level. In coordination with colleague organisations in the health sector, EFA co-signed an #EU4Health statement calling the EU institutions to review this decision and to stand firm behind a strong budget for long-term health action, putting people’s health and well-being at the top of their priorities.

More information on asthma and COPD patients’ access to diagnosis, care and disease management can be found in EFA’s European Active Patients ACCESS Care Report.