Renew Europe’s proposal for the establishment of a European Health Force.
Due to the unprecedented global health crisis caused by the COVID-19 and the its alarming repercussions on all areas of activity, Véronique Trillet-Lenoir (Renaissance, FR), Renew Europe’s Deputy-Coordinator on the Committee on Environment, Health and Food Safety, has presented a European Health Response Mechanism as part of the Renew Europe Resolution. This proposal will be voted tomorrow in Plenary by the European Parliament.
Despite of the European Commission’s strong efforts on financial support and stockpiling medical material among other actions, the European Union have found limited competencies in the field of health which caused initial weaknesses in terms of responsiveness, coordination and solidarity.
“The coronavirus epidemic has revealed the extraordinary fragility of the EU in terms of health. Of course there have been aid to citizens, group purchases, funding for research and comforting cases of patient transfers from one country to another. But we have seen the disorganization of national responses, the crisp lack of solidarity with the shortages of masks and respirators, the brutal closure some corridors of the airspace”, says MEP and oncologist Trillet-Lenoir.
This situation has triggered the need for a European Health Response Mechanism with the following objectives:
- Reinforce the competencies of the EU in the area of health.
- Learn from the crisis and seize the opportunity to set up an effective system to coordinate our response at European level.
- Avoid a fragmented, inefficient and uneven approach to fight the crisis.
- Build up a strong mechanism to guarantee a quick and operational coordination of EU actions at our disposal in times of health crisis: Networking of European agencies, activation of available tools and revision of existing legislations.
- Later, anticipate possible future sanitary crises (infectious or other causes: chemical, environmental, biological, alimentary, nuclear…)
This Health force should:
- Ensure a reactive and operational coordination at European level.
- Strengthen European health agencies (ECDC, EMA, EFSA, ECHA, EU-OSHA): Consolidate their skills and resources, coordinate their actions, provide them with criteria for evaluation of their recommendations.
- Ensure the interoperability of national health systems: Joint procurements on medical equipment, medicine and biological test, coordinated rooting of equipment, circulation of blood products and organs, mobilization of health professionals, patient’s transport for cross-border care.
- Set up a digital exchange platform for: Epidemiological data, science-based practice recommendations, alerts on risks or obstacles encountered (shortages and others).
- Set up an information / communication portal for citizens: Digital relay of verified information, fight against disinformation, emergency instructions.
2. Restore European sovereignty over health products.
- Repatriate the production of active ingredients on European territory.
- Encourage the pharmaceutical industries to relocate production sites on European territory.
- Encourage the pharmaceutical industries to develop innovative production technologies.
- Provide an emergency reserve of controlled and mobilizable medical equipment.
- Introduce the status of “drug with major therapeutic interest”.
3. Strengthen European cooperation in research
- Fund research on vaccines, treatments, tests etc…
- More widely implement Artificial Intelligence tools in crisis prevention and management (contact tracing)
- Encourage research on the mechanisms of health crises (environmental, food, infectious…)
- Facilitate the pooling of European multicenter clinical trials.
- Support the research and training actions of European universities
The three objectives of this proposal could be achieved via the revision of existing legislations following a rational order of priority:
- Strengthening of the competences and resources of European Health Agencies.
- More targeted assessment of the decision on serious cross-border health threats.
- Activation of the European Medical Corps within the EU.
- Assessment of the implementation of the cross-border healthcare directive and its revision if needed.
- Delay of the enter into force of Medical Devices regulations.
- Foreseen revision of the legislation relating to access to medicines and promotion of stockpiling of medical materials in Europe as part of the future pharmaceutical strategy.
- Financial incentives to relocate pharmaceutical production to European territory.
- Continuation of negotiations on the health technology assessment (HTA).
At the same time, it should take into account the equal protection of the most vulnerable people (also in third countries, linked to WHO) and the “Health in all policies” approach.
The establishment of the European Health Force could be initiated through the revision of the decision on serious cross-border health threats.