Health is currently at the top of the EU agenda as it has never has been before. The growing incidence of cancer among the EU population and the COVID-19 pandemic are the two main reasons for this.
Although fighting against cancer has been set as a priority by the European Commission, our concern - and here I mean the European People’s Party, my political group - is much older. Health was one of the EPP's priorities in the 2019 European Parliament elections.
The EPP Group has consistently supported the need for a coherent project to fight cancer, and this project has been an important point in our dialogue with citizens. I can say without error that the EPP effort was the basis for proposing a European Cancer Plan and the setting up of the European Parliament's Beating Cancer committee (BECA).
The COVID-19 pandemic has indeed shed light on the weakness of our health systems: poor health infrastructure, insufficient human resources and lack of proper professional training, shortages of medical devices and medicines.
The EPP position paper on health stressed that the new EU health programme must draw lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic.
We proposed as main goals the upgrade of EU Member States’ healthcare systems; the training of more health staff and the promotion of medical excellence.
"A first step has been taken towards a common policy by creating the Health Programme as a result of lessons learned from the crisis. We should dare to go further and at least try to think about an EU common health policy, with an open mind and oriented towards the benefit of citizens, as well"
We also want to reduce health inequalities across Europe, support digitalisation in the healthcare sector, the exchange best practices between countries and the financing of a master plan against cancer as well as bringing medicines production back to Europe.
More steps have been taken to address the main challenges of healthcare systems and to improve citizens` rights to a healthy life including the EU Beating Cancer Plan, Parliament's report on medicines shortages, the Eu4Health Programme and the Pharmaceutical Strategy for Europe.
I have no doubt that all these efforts will bring improvements. However, I believe that the EU needs a common policy on health.
The problem is that the policies that target the largest number of citizens, such as education, health and tourism, are not EU common policies.
I think we need to start thinking about common policies in these directions as well. In health, we have differences among the Member States in funding and endowment of hospitals, so we must make great efforts to reach a common policy and to reduce the inequalities between East and West.
A first step has been taken towards a common policy by creating the Health Programme as a result of lessons learned from the crisis.
We should dare to go further and at least try to think about an EU common health policy, with an open mind and oriented towards the benefit of citizens, as well.