by | October 5, 2020 | Statements

Dear EU Health Ministers, Downgrading EU health action is the wrong answer to the coronavirus crisis

The European Public Health Alliance understands that the European Commission’s EU4health proposal is being drastically cut back by EU Member States, in the ongoing negotiations between EU national governments in the Council of the EU. This risks much less EU action on health than was originally foreseen, against the wishes of 70% of Europeans and leaving Europe much less fit to fight future pandemics.  

EPHA has today written to EU national health ministers and their permanent representatives in Brussels to express our deep concerns on the changes, which if not reversed, will affect the lives and and well-being of millions of Europeans.  We are particularly worried by the European Council proposal which:

  1. Waters down the EU ambition on health, limiting it to a large extent to pandemics only and downgrades the ambition by highlighting its complementary nature to member state actions
  2. Re-introduces a care-focused approach and weakens health prevention and promotion and the EU role to regulate on these matters. As regards non-communicable diseases (NCDs), there is less emphasis is on the common risk factors of cancer and other NCDs
  3. Reduces EU action on communicable diseases: only highlights the importance of EU delivery on the UN Sustainable Development Goals for health in the context of non-communicable diseases, and only seeks to support actions for the improvement of surveillance, diagnosis and treatment of non-communicable diseases. This ignores communicable diseases and the important role of the EU in co-ordinating action on cross-border health threats, and building resilience of national health systems.
  4. Deletes the reference to a possible extension of current European Reference Networks (ERNs) beyond rare diseases to communicable and non-communicable disease networks in the Commission proposal;
  5. Deletes the strengthening of the ECDC, EMA and other agencies. This is one of the specific objectives of EU4Health and vital to tackle cross-border health threats and improve Europe’s public health capability.
  6. There is worryingly reduced focus on health inequalities, risking that the most vulnerable to poor health will once more be left behind, questioning commitment to the values on which the EU is based.
  1. There is no involvement of public interest non-governmental organizations in the EU4Health steering group, to voice the lived experience and needs of the populations they represent, including patients, healthcare professionals, caregivers, public health professionals and ordinary people. Moreover, it includes further restrictions to providing financial support for non-governmental organizations and sets up additional conditions for grants, prejudicing their ability to effectively support the programme’s implementation, and provide essential services to support vulnerable groups.

EPHA calls on EU national health ministers for their support to better reflect the needs of those who want and need more EU action on health, and for national governments to work together and show more solidarity towards each other to protect and improve the health of every European, ensuring that health considerations will be put at the heart of discussions in the upcoming policy dialogue.

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