Europe on the way to a Health Union?

RB – 07/2020

The Covid-19 pandemic has shown that no health system can meet the challenges of such a health crisis alone. It is therefore the right time to reflect on the areas where concerted action is required to protect the EU from future cross-border health threats, explained Commissioner Kyriakides the day before the vote on the "EU’s public health strategy post-COVID-19" in the debate in the European Parliament.

Strategies to strengthen public health

The Parliament resolution adopted on 10 July 2020 by a large majority of MEPs takes up this idea and calls on Member States and the European institutions to learn the right lessons from the COVID-19 crisis and to significantly improve cooperation to tackle cross-border health threats.

MEPs welcome the increase in the multi-annual financial framework to EUR 9.4 billion for the autonomous health programme EU4Health. We reported in the newsletter 6/2020. However, this should remain a long-term investment and commitment.

In order to improve crisis management, there is a call for a revised mandate for the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and a stronger role for the EMA in monitoring and preventing drug shortages. Commissioner Kyriakides also sees opportunities in this. At the press conference for the informal meeting of health ministers on 16/07/2020, she took up this aspect of equipping the ECDC and EMA with stronger mandates for proactive action in crisis situations.

In addition, the Commission is invited to propose the creation of a European Health Response Mechanism (EHRM). The EHRM is designed to respond to all types of health crises, strengthen EU coordination and monitor the creation and release of strategic reserves of medicines and medical equipment.

The continuing infection situation requires vigilant action and careful measures to prevent and fight infections. The European Commission, Member States and global partners are invited to ensure rapid, equitable and affordable access to future COVID-19 vaccines and treatments worldwide as soon as they become available. To avoid competition between Member States and to ensure equal and affordable access to COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, MEPs call for the use of the EU joint procurement procedure.