We support the priorities of the German Council Presidency, but also want to outline long-term visions for better cooperation

The European Parliament calls for much greater cooperation between member states on health issues. The largest political groups in the European Parliament agreed on a resolution on this matter, which is to be adopted on Friday. "The Corona pandemic has shown that we need to cooperate much more. Just like the corona virus, many other health threats respect no borders, which is why politicians must act more jointly across borders," says Dr Peter Liese, health spokesperson for the largest political group in the European Parliament (EPP/Christian Democrats). A large majority of MEPs support the four priorities set by the German Presidency, which were outlined by the German Health Minister Jens Spahn in a video conference with MEPs on Monday.

First, better cooperation in combating epidemics, amongst others by strengthening the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC).

Second, greater cooperation in the development of vaccines and medicines, and a strengthening of the long-term infrastructure along the US-American’s model of BARDA.

Third, strengthening cooperation in the field of e-health and improving the compatibility of the corresponding national systems.

Fourth, concrete measures to prevent shortages of medicines and other important products such as masks.

"The priorities of the German Presidency align with those of the Commission and Parliament. Therefore, I am sure that we will be successful within the next six months. On other points, we need to show much more effort, however, we are convinced that it is necessary. We want to create a European health union, which means that we will cooperate much stronger in other areas. The resolution respects the right of the member states to continue to regulate important parts of their health care at national level, but it is obvious that many problems can only be solved if we work together across borders," says the German doctor.

It is important to MEPs that health must be taken into account in all areas in the future. "The Treaty states at various points that health aspects must be considered in all decisions taken by the European Union. This principle must be put into practice, which includes a systematic impact assessment of all Commission proposals, not only on economic or environmental issues but also on health issues," said Liese.

MEPs also call for concrete legislative proposals to reduce the use of antibiotics (in humans and animals) and incentives for the development of new antibiotics, an action plan on health professionals as well as action plans to combat rare diseases and mental illness. MEPs strongly support the action plan to combat cancer, which has already been announced by the Commission.

MEPs request of the German Presidency to quickly work for a Council proposal for the assessment of health technologies and to adopt a Council position. Parliament also calls for independent funding of patient support groups (many of these groups are dependent on industry funding, which casts doubt on their independence).

Finally, MEPs call for the strengthening of international cooperation, particularly in the area of the WHO.

"Many of these issues will not be implemented overnight, but I remember very clearly when we first discussed an energy union in Europe. Such a plan seemed unrealistic at back than, too. Today, the Energy Union is largely implemented, and I am firmly convinced that we will succeed in the health sector. In the European Parliament, we are talking about concrete proposals and not about a theoretical discussion of competences. We want to achieve the best possible for patients in all 27 Member States", Liese concluded.

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