In future, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control should also be able to provide practical assistance in the prevention of health risks.

UM – 11/2020

The European Commission wants to improve public health safety by strengthening the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), based in Solna, Sweden. The latter is to be assigned more tasks as well as more personnel to fulfil such tasks. On 11th November 2020, the European Commission presented a draft regulation governing this, thus forming one of the building blocks of the European Health Union proposed by it.

The ECDC is still not perfect

The work of the ECDC is not easy. The Member States are responsible for health-related matters and, at best, coordination of activities is carried out through information provision and on a voluntary basis. To develop vigour is usually difficult. The EU is called in whenever there is a crisis, coupled with a practical problem. The measures, as the coronavirus crisis has shown, are often not coordinated. Moreover, the flow of information is slow. Digitisation could remedy this situation, provided that sufficient staff are available to enter the relevant data. In other words: The development of the ECDC into a strong authority is a challenge as well as closely linked to the further development of national health and disease prevention institutions.  

Germany drives strengthening of the ECDC 

Against the background of the COVID-19 pandemic, the extension of the ECDC's mandate suits the current times perfectly. Up to now, management of health protection has tended to be at the national level. Traditional institutes such as the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin, the Institut Pasteur in Paris or the National Health Institute of Spain (Instituto Nacional de Gestión Sanitaria). Therefore, the stimulus from the German side to strengthen the European level and the ECDC is remarkable.

On the way to a real health authority

Currently, about 280 employees work in the Solna office. The ECDC is to provide monitoring data and scientific advice on communicable diseases subject to notification, disease outbreaks and other public health threats. The EU Commission's draft regulation now provides for improvement of ECDC's monitoring system and gives it the opportunity to provide practical support in the form of specific recommendations for action to the Member States and to coordinate pandemic plans with them. The ECDC is to become a genuine EU health agency, on which Member States can rely for crisis prevention and response, and which can also mobilise assistance teams in emergencies and deploy them where help is needed.