10 Mar, 2021

EU4Health: First milestone towards a European Health Union

On 9 March, the European Parliament approved an ambitious agreement on the EU4Health programme, investing in health systems, promotion and prevention in the years to come.

“With a budget of €5.1 billion, for which the Parliament fought hard, this deal marks the first milestone on the way towards a true European Health Union,” said Renew Europe Group rapporteur Véronique Trillet-Lenoir MEP (Liste Renaissance, FR), adding “the set-up of the fund reflects 90% of the priorities that Renew Europe defended during the negotiations.” 

With EU4Health, there will be a strong, shared commitment to addressing chronic diseases, setting up a European network of national cancer institutes and guaranteeing access to sexual and reproductive health care. The latter is something for which the European Parliament FEMM Committee and Renew Europe Group rapporteur Chrysoula Zacharopoulou MEP (La République en marche, FR) emphasised during the negotiations.

Lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic were also considered during the negotiations, so that the EU will be better prepared to deal with major health crises in the future. The mandate and resources of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) will be strengthened, and a Health Emergency Response Authority (HERA or European Barda) will be created. More attention will go towards national health system stress tests, developing health standards and further extending European reference networks to complex communicable and non-communicable diseases.

Health issues are not a traditional area of expertise for the European Union, and this is the first time that the EU has outlined a clear and coherent vision on health. Negotiations between the European Parliament’s Budget committee and Nicolae Ștefănuță MEP (Uniunea Salvați România, RO) ensured that initial budget cuts from the European Council were largely undone.

“An unprecedented achievement,” concluded Trillet-Lenoir, “Yet it is just the start. The regulation on cross-border health threats is the next debate where Renew Europe will push for better preparedness and a more common European response. And the Conference for the Future of Europe will allow Renew Europe to truly shape the vision for a European Health Union going forward.”

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