Germany took over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union
from Croatia on the 1st July 2020 along with the major challenges that the EU
faced this year. With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, social and
healthcare policy issues have become increasingly important across Europe.
Under the motto "Together - Making Europe strong again", Germany
has - during its Council Presidency - set itself the goal of strengthening
social cohesion and working to ensure that Europe emerges stronger from the
crisis. The Council Presidency will be transferred to Portugal on the 1st
What is the result a few days after the last European Council under
Germany’s Presidency? The European representative from the German Social
Insurance spoke about this with Dr Doris Pfeiffer, chairperson of the National
Association of Statutory Health Insurance Funds.
What were your political expectations for Germany’s Council Presidency? To what extent have these been fulfilled in your view?
Early on, we campaigned with the BMG to initiate pan-European use of
health data within the framework of the Council Presidency. There is great
potential there, if you think of the many common challenges faced by the
different health systems within the EU: For example, the major widespread
diseases, healthcare in rural areas or even financial sustainability. I
strongly believe that we as German National Association of Statutory Health
Insurance Funds have a lot to offer in this sector and that the insured can
benefit greatly from closer cooperation and joint research efforts in the EU.
The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed these and other priorities down the
list. Nevertheless, the first steps towards a European health data governance
have been taken. We now have to ensure that we continue with a clear focus on
the benefits for the insured.
In your opinion, which topics have been neglected and should have been promoted more strongly?
Germany’s Council Presidency, the EU Commission and the Parliament have
made pandemic management their top priority and they have made a lot of
progress. The extensive reconstruction programme, the many guidelines,
legislation for faster vaccine development and more recently, the proposals for
better crisis prevention and for strengthening the European Medicines Agency.
This is an impressive interim result as such.
It is clear that priorities will shift in such an exceptional situation
as the present one. That is also rightly so. However, it is also clear that we
must not lose sight of the other challenges. The fight against cancer, for
example. The European plan to combat cancer will now come in during 2021 and it
remains an important undertaking.
What do you expect from Portugal’s Council Presidency? Are there any topics that you think should be given special attention?
that the Portuguese will reach a compromise in the Council about the regulation
covering HTA collaboration. The evaluation of medicinal products and medical
devices is important for the high-quality and economical care of the insured. I
expect that the quality of the joint evaluations will have to meet the highest
addition, a number of initiatives on supply reliability, availability and
affordability have been announced as part of the EU’s pharmaceutical strategy.
We will be following them very closely. We have already talked about the
European health data governance. Portugal’s Council Presidency should continue
to move ahead with this and ensure that healthcare and the insured are the