The EU4Health programme takes on board the lessons learned from the COVID-19 crisis to tackle health issues at every stage: preparedness to any type of sanitary crises, prevention and health promotion, holistic research and pharmaceutical sovereignty through an effective European medicines market, with the constant concern of reducing the health inequalities and ensuring equal access to healthcare for the most vulnerable populations.
The programme aims to promote and support projects of governments, health organisations and NGOs across the EU.
The final report on EU4Health, adopted on 14 October by the Parliamentary Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI), is overall very supportive.
The fallout from the COVID-19 crisis underlined the need to strengthen national health systems as well as the coordination between them. A stand-alone programme is a step forward and the Renew Europe Group has embraced it as an opportunity to put health systems and health policies in general more firmly on the European radar. This goes beyond the current pandemic: for a European Union always talking about being 'big on big things', the EU4Health programme is the way to go.
But the ENVI committee's endorsement particularly calls to financially strengthen the action programme for health, as originally proposed by the European Commission in the Multiannual Financial Framework for 2021-27. Renew Europe does not support the drastic cuts made by the Council last July and is eager to fight for an adequate EU budget for health.
Shadow rapporteur Véronique Trillet-Lenoir MEP explains: “During the negotiations we have promoted the ‘health in policies’ approach. The adopted report asks for a systematic health impact assessment of EU policies, in order to guarantee their positive effect on improving the health and well-being of our citizens. It is the very first step towards the strengthening of European health policy.”
Nicolae Ştefănută MEP, who reported on the file in the BUDG committee, argued the cuts agreed by the European Council would entirely undo the programma's ambition: “If funded correctly, Eu4Health would greatly benefit our citizens. The Council's massive cuts transformed the ambitions of EU4Health programme into smoke and mirrors. But the European Parliament will fight for a budget that allows EU4Health to become an impactful programme for the health of citizens.”
Chrysoula Zacharopoulou MEP, rapporteur in the FEMM committee, adds: “The pandemic has exacerbated existing health inequalities, including women's vulnerabilities when it comes to their sexual and reproductive health and rights. In particular, access to contraception, adequate maternal healthcare and the right to a safe abortion must be considered as essential healthcare services in times of crisis as well. The EU4health programme has to take duly into account those specific needs and challenges, and Renew Europe will push to improve the text in plenary.”