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#EBU supports campaign to create first UN special representative for journalists' safety

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reporterThe EBU has lent its support to a Reporters Without Borders (RSF) campaign to create a Special Representative to the United Nations Secretary General dedicated to the safety of journalists.

Delegates at the EBU’s General Assembly in Montenegro heard how there had been a failure to reduce the frequency and scale of targeted violence that journalists face on a daily basis. In the last 10 years, 787 journalists and media personnel have been killed in the course of their work including many from EBU member broadcasters. Last year alone, 67 journalists were killed worldwide.

As well as the tragic loss of life, by silencing their voices, millions of people have been deprived – often intentionally - of the right to hear free and fair information. An attack on journalists is an attack on people’s fundamental freedoms and rights of access to information – a key sustainable development goal for the UN.

RSF is leading a coalition of media outlets, NGOs, journalists and prominent public figures calling for a Special Representative at the UN with responsibility for enforcing international law and ensuring crimes against journalists do not go unpunished.

EBU President Jean-Paul Philippot said: “Freedom of the media is a core value of the EBU but that freedom cannot be protected unless journalists are able to carry out their work without the threat of harassment and physical danger.

“We are therefore keen to add our voice to the calls for a UN Special Representative that will have the political weight, legitimacy and capacity for rapid action to help protect journalists worldwide.”

Support for the RSF campaign is the latest measure by the EBU to try and improve the safety of journalists in the field. Members are offered a variety of tools including dedicated training; unique apps such as ZeroRisk; the creation of safezones and networking opportunities between broadcaster’s safety personnel. The EBU also campaigns with UNESCO and the Council of Europe against impunity for those that attack the media and works to improve awareness of safety concerns.

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Appeal judges refuse extradition of top Romanian businessman who suffered 'flagrantly unfair' trial

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An order for the extradition of Gabriel Popoviciu (pictured), a high-profile Romanian businessman, from the UK to Romania has been quashed. The High Court in London described Popoviciu’s case as “extraordinary”, writes Martin Banks.

The Court found that there was credible evidence to show that the trial judge who convicted Popoviciu in Romania - whilst holding judicial office, and over a number of years - corruptly assisted “underworld” businessmen with their legal matters. In particular, the trial judge had provided “improper and corrupt assistance” to the complainant, and chief prosecution witness in Popoviciu’s case, including the soliciting and receiving of bribes.  

The trial judge’s failure to disclose his pre-existing corrupt relationship with the complainant - and the Romanian authorities’ failure properly to investigate this link - were of central, damning importance.

The Court therefore concluded that Popoviciu was not tried by an impartial tribunal and that he had “suffered a complete denial” of his fair trial rights as protected by Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Court further concluded that the serving of a prison sentence based on an improper conviction would be “arbitrary” and that extraditing Popoviciu would consequently represent a “flagrant denial” of his right to liberty as protected by Article 5 of the European Convention.

The Court accordingly quashed the order for extradition and allowed the appeal.

This is the first time that the High Court has concluded that extradition to an EU Member State represents a real risk of a “flagrant denial” of a requested person’s Convention rights.

As leading British legal commentator Joshua Rozenberg explained, since 2004, the European arrest warrant has allowed fast-track extradition between members of the EU. Mutual recognition is based on the understanding that each EU state can trust the judicial processes of every other member state.

Rozenberg went on to say: “It’s easy to say that if this is the standard of justice in a country that has been an EU member since 2007, the UK is better off without the European arrest warrant. On the other hand Popoviciu’s extradition (strictly speaking, “surrender”) was ordered before the UK left the EU and the appeal result would have been the same regardless of Brexit.”

He added: “The real lesson of this case is a more chastening one: you don’t have to travel far to find judicial behaviour that would be unthinkable in the UK. It should also be unthinkable in the EU.”

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EAPM: HTA delays, EMA…and beating cancer

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Greetings, colleagues, and here’s the latest European Alliance for Personalised Medicine (EAPM) update as we approach what we hope will be a normal ‘summer’. It’s all just a bit different and better this year, of course, with the vaccine rates picking up. While a lot of countries are winding-back their lockdown processes slowly but surely, it remains to be seen how many of us will have the oppurtunity to take a holiday abroad - wherever that may be - amid continuing fears in respect of COVID-19 variants. Some daring souls have made their reservation, of course, but  ‘staycations’ are in some cautious travellers likely to be the order of the day this time around again, with many deciding to holiday in their own countries. In the meantime, don’t forget that EAPM has a virtual conference coming up very soon - in less than two weeks, in fact, on Thursday, 1 July, writes EAPM Executive Director Dr. Denis Horgan. 

Entitled Bridging Conference: Innovation, Public Trust and Evidence: Generating Alignment to facilitate personalized Innovation in Health Care Systems, the conference acts as a bridging event between the EU Presidencies of Portugal and Slovenia.

Alongside our many great speakers, attendees will be drawn from leading experts in the personalised medicine arena – including patients, payers, health-care professionals, plus industry, science, academia and the research field.

Each session will comprise panel discussions as well as Q&A sessions to allow the best possible involvement of all participants, so now is the time to register here, and download your agenda here.

HTA deal

On Wednesday, (16 June) EU deputy ambassadors signed off on the Portuguese Council presidency’s latest health technology assessment (HTA) proposal so it can move to trilogues on 21 June. Countries are willing to shorten the date of application and compromise on the voting system, but are not eager to budge on Article 8 — a debate that could delay the deal. In the event there are divergent opinions, EU countries agreed that any country must explain the scientific basis for contrarian views. 

EMA reform proposal – EU common position agreed

EU health ministers have met for the last time under Portugal’s presidency of the Council of the EU to agree on that body’s position for negotiations with the European Parliament on new rules to strengthen the role of the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

At a meeting in Luxembourg on Tuesday (15 June) chaired by Portuguese Health Minister Marta Temido, the 27 governments agreed on their position for the upcoming negotiations with the Parliament.

They had already agreed on some changes to the initial proposal presented by the European Commission in November on the revision of rules to strengthen the mandate of the EMA, as part of a broader package on the so-called European Health Union.

One of the main objectives of the new draft EMA rules is to better enable it to monitor and mitigate potential and actual shortages of medicines and medical devices that are considered critical to respond to public health emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic, which revealed shortcomings in this regard.

The proposal also aims to “ensure the timely development of high-quality, safe and efficacious medicines, with particular emphasis on responding to public health emergencies” and to “provide a framework for the operation of expert panels that assess high-risk medical devices and provide essential advice on crisis preparedness and management”.

Life after cancer with BECA 

The Parliament’s special committee for beating cancer (BECA) held a hearing on national cancer control programmes on Wednesday to hear how different countries were tackling the challenge. 

Despite advances in cancer diagnoses and effective therapies which have helped to increase survival rates, cancer survivors continue to experience significant challenges. According to Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, cancer should be tackled across the entire disease pathway, from prevention to improving the quality of life of cancer patients and survivors. In fact, ensuring that survivors “live long, fulfilling lives, free from discrimination and unfair obstacles” is of utmost importance. 

Life after cancer is multifaceted yet the focus of this online debate is on the implementation of policies addressing the specific challenge of returning to work for cancer survivors. 

Northern Ireland cross-border health care directive reinstated

Health Minister Robin Swann is to reinstate the cross-border health care directive to the Republic of Ireland. The directive is a temporary measure for a 12-month period to help reduce Northern Ireland waiting lists and will be subject to strict criteria. 

The minister said: “A key principle of our health service is that access to services is based on clinical need, not on an individual’s ability to pay. However we are in exceptional times and we must look at every option to tackle the waiting lists in Northern Ireland. 

“Reinstating a limited version of the cross-border health-care directive to Ireland will not have a dramatic impact on the overall waiting lists, but it will provide an opportunity for some to have their treatment much earlier. 

“We need an urgent and collective approach across government to tackle this issue and deliver a health service that is fit for the 21st century.” 

The Republic of Ireland Reimbursement Scheme sets out a framework, based on the Cross-Border Health Care Directive that will allow patients to seek and pay for treatment in the private sector in Ireland and have the costs reimbursed by the Health and Social Care Board. Costs will be reimbursed up to the cost of the treatment in Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland. 

Survey reveals attitudes of public toward rare diseases and medicines access 

The UK BioIndustry Association (BIA) has published a report presenting the findings of a survey on the public attitudes toward equal access to medicines for those living with rare diseases, it was announced in a 17 June press release. 

Results of the survey, which was conducted by YouGov, have shown that the public strongly believe that patients living with rare diseases should have equal access to medicines via the National Health Service (NHS) as those living with more common conditions. 

Additionally, the majority of survey respondents agreed that patients with rare diseases should have access to medicines assured by the NHS on a basis of clinical need, irrespective of cost. 

The survey findings follow recent assertions made by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), specifying that there isn’t an appetite among the general public for specific measures to tackle rare disease. BIA’s report, Public Attitudes to Rare Diseases: 

The Case for Equal Access, recommends that NICE revises its position on rare conditions and medicines access, and that the body consider the value of a rarity modifier when performing health technology assessments. 

This survey demonstrates that there is broad public support for measures to ensure access to medicines for rare diseases based on clinical need even if that would entail higher costs..

That is all from EAPM for this week – do enjoy your weekend, stay safe and well, and don’t forget to register for the EAPM Slovenian EU Presidency conference on 1 July here, and download your agenda here.

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EU draws up list of which countries should have travel restrictions lifted - UK excluded

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Following a review under the recommendation on the gradual lifting of the temporary restrictions on non-essential travel into the EU, the Council updated the list of countries, special administrative regions and other entities and territorial authorities for which travel restrictions should be lifted. As stipulated in the Council recommendation, this list will continue to be reviewed every two weeks and, as the case may be, updated.

Based on the criteria and conditions set out in the recommendation, as from 18 June 2021 member states should gradually lift the travel restrictions at the external borders for residents of the following third countries:

  • Albania
  • Australia
  • Israel
  • Japan
  • Lebanon
  • New Zealand
  • Republic of North Macedonia
  • Rwanda
  • Serbia
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Thailand
  • United States of America
  • China, subject to confirmation of reciprocity

Travel restrictions should also be gradually lifted for the special administrative regions of China Hong Kong and  Macao. The condition of reciprocity for these special administrative regions has been lifted.

Under the category of entities and territorial authorities that are not recognised as states by at least one member state, travel restrictions for Taiwan should also be gradually lifted.

Residents of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican should be considered as EU residents for the purpose of this recommendation.

The criteria to determine the third countries for which the current travel restriction should be lifted were updated on 20 May 2021. They cover the epidemiological situation and overall response  to COVID-19, as well as the reliability of the available information and data sources. Reciprocity should also be taken into account on a case by case basis.

Schengen associated countries (Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, Switzerland) also take part in this recommendation.

Background

On 30 June 2020 the Council adopted a recommendation on the gradual lifting of the temporary restrictions on non-essential travel into the EU. This recommendation included an initial list of countries for which member states should start lifting the travel restrictions at the external borders. The list is reviewed every two weeks and, as the case may be, updated.

On 20 May, the Council adopted an amending recommendation to respond to the ongoing vaccination campaigns by introducing certain waivers for vaccinated persons and easing the criteria to lift restrictions for third countries. At the same time, the amendments take into account the possible risks posed by new variants by setting out an emergency brake mechanism to quickly react to the emergence of a variant of interest or concern in a third country.

The Council recommendation is not a legally binding instrument. The authorities of the member states remain responsible for implementing the content of the recommendation. They may, in full transparency, lift only progressively travel restrictions towards countries listed.

A member state should not decide to lift the travel restrictions for non-listed third countries before this has been decided in a coordinated manner.

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