#EAPM – Presidencies change…but #Brexit lingers on

| July 19, 2019

Good morning, and welcome to EAPM’s latest update, in a week made lively by a successful crowning as Queen of the European Commission of Ursula von der Leyen, and Frans Timmermans (pictured)being a bit rude about Brexit-related matters, writes European Alliance for Personalised Medicine (EAPM) Executive Director Denis Horgan.

We also bring you a review of the Romanian EU Presidency and a brief peep into the future of the Finnish one.

For how ‘Ushi’ landed the Commission top job – if only just – do have look back at our update of earlier this week. For Timmerman’s, well, here it is…

The current Commission first vice-president (and close-but-no-cigar socialist Spitzenkandidat) revealed a lot about Brexit negotiations in a Panorama documentary for the UK’s BBC 1 channel.

In an interview recorded earlier this year and broadcast this week, the Dutchmansaid he found it “shocking” how unprepared the UK team was when it began negotiations.

He said: ”We thought they are so brilliantThat in some vault somewhere in Westminster there will be a Harry Potter-like book with all the tricks and all the things in it to do.”

But when Timmermans watched the then-Brexit Secretary David Davis speaking in public, he suddenly saw the light. “I saw him not coming, not negotiating, grandstanding elsewhere [and] I thought, ‘Oh my God, they haven’t got a plan, they haven’t got a plan’.”

“Time’s running out and you don’t have a plan. It’s like Lance Corporal Jones (from the TV show Dad’s Army)…you know, ‘Don’t panic, don’t panic!’. Running around like idiots.


Timmermans wasn’t much nicer about the hot favourite to be the UK’s next Prime Minister, Boris Johnson’s time as a Brexit negotiator, saying: “Perhaps I am being a bit harsh, but it is about time we became a bit harsh. I am not sure he was being genuine.”

“I have always had the impression he is playing games.

Double ouch!

In a separate interview for the same programme, the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier was asked whether the UK had ever genuinely threatened to leave with no deal.

Barnier replied:“I think that the UK side, which is well informed and competent and knows the way we work on the EU side, knew from the very beginning that we’ve never been impressed by such a threat.It’s not useful to use it.”

Johnson’s Conservative Party rival for Number 10 Downing Street, Jeremy Hunt, speaking to BBC Radio 4, responded that the fact the EU “never believed that no deal was a credible threat” was “one of our mistakes in the last two years”.

The new prime minister will be unveiled next week in the wake of a parliamentary amendment that makes it harder for Johnson or Hunt to shut down the House of Commons in order to stop MPs blocking a no-deal Brexit.

So just when you thought the whole soap opera had run through every plot possible, it’s time to stock up on the popcorn again…

The good, the bad, and the disgusted…

First the bad: Eurostat tells us this week that the top killers in EU member states in 2016 were heart attacks, strokes and cancer. From just over five million total deaths, more than 1.8 million people died from circulatory diseases (mainly strokes and heart attacks) and 1.3 million died from cancer. 

Now the good: Spain had the lowest death rate in the EU in 2016, with 829 per 100,000 people, followed by France and Italy.

The disgusted? Well, a report from the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission claims that ‘disgust’ can influence attitudes towards health regulation.

Those of us more easily disgusted by, say, smoking often endorse stricter regulation on health issues, and could be more inclined to support health policies emphasizing “purity”.

The report analyses how emotions, values, identity and reason affect political decision-making. It seems that evidence to justify a policy is not always enough to secure public opinion.

The report states: “Individual differences of sensitivity to physical sensations may influence political attitudes and moral judgements,” and notesthat experiences of disgust can shift judgments toward political conservatism.

If policymakers want citizens to respond to health messages, it seems that showing potential gains rather than losses could prove effective. The report offers stats suggesting such an approach could work in, for example,disease prevention.

The report adds that “early anti-smoking policies met with resistance from users as the tobacco industry framed smoking as a question of personal freedom,” but success eventually came about afterthe policies were framed as public-health and labour-rights issues.

Patient demands on data

The Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases tells us this week that patients with rare diseases want control over their data. 

In news that will shock absolutely nobody at all, 80% of 2,013 responders said they want full or near to full control over the data they share”. 

And a massive 97%said they’re willing to make their data available for research purposes.Meanwhile, only 51% were willing to share data for non-health related purposes.

In brief and in briefing 

ENVIs agenda for next week will include an exchange of views with Krista Kiuru, the Finnish EU Presidency’s health chief.

Romania under review

As alluded to up top, a review of the Romanian EU Presidency took place at the Parliament in Strasbourg this week, featuring a statement from the country’s Prime Minister, Viorica Dăncilă, who underlined that EU institutions work for citizens and produce results to improve their lives and future prospects.

She told the hemicycle that Romania delivered this special mission on behalf of citizens and for EU unity. 

Romania concluded 90 legislative files in the 2,500 meetings it organized during its six-month role as president, with 84 sets of conclusions adopted on a wide range of topics of common interest.

Dăncilă said that the Romanian Presidency had worked on four key pillars: a Europe of convergence, a safer Europe, Europe as a global player and a Europe of common values.


Over the course of its mandate, the Presidency worked to consolidate the EU project and demonstrated that pro-Europeanism should be reflected in ongoing action, the prime minister said, adding that itis important to eliminate differences between member states to avoid creating gaps and differing standards for EU citizens. 

She said she was convinced that the efforts made constitute a substantial basis for advancing the EU agenda in the next presidency and wished the best of luck to Finland (which took over on 1 July).

Prime Minister Dăncilă later added that building consensus between 28 member states was not an easy thing to do, especially in light of different priorities, but said that Romania had tried to act as an honest broker, which helped to achieve results. 

She pointed out that the EU has no competence in matters related to health, for example, and that during the presidency a country cannot intervene, but rather work to build consensus. 

Maroš Šefčovič, Vice President for Energy Union and (temporarily)for Digital Single Market, praised the co-operation with the European Parliament, adding that, to achieve results, the EU Institutions must work together in the constant pursuit of the EU interest,.

He noted progress made on minimum standards for working parents and carers, among other items.

MEP Andrey Kovatchev said that the presidency cameat a challenging time for Europe, not least due to Brexit, the ongoing discussions about the future shape of the EU,and institutional renewal. (He didn’t mention HTA as Romania sort-of side-stepped it.)

The presidency had faced high expectations to deliver on legislation and provide guidance on set priorities for the future, he said.

Kovatchev concluded by saying that it’s now time for the Finnish Presidency to work together with the Parliament and the incoming President of the European Commission.

His European Parliamentary colleague Philippe Lamberts was more critical, saying that when a member state is presiding over the EU, it is crucial that it represents EU values. However, he said, the current Romanian government is contrary to those values, adding that Romania deserves better.


Ruža Tomašić, however, said that Romania proved that it can do a good job when there are clear goals and strategies. The Romanian Presidency will be remembered for a great number of initiatives and key agreements with the Parliament, the MEP added.

UK MEP Jake Pughtook the time to congratulate Romanian sporting star Simona Halepon her stunning performance at Wimbledon last weekend. He described it as a performance of poise, power and precision which, most importantly, will have inspired millions of young girls at home and abroad to participate in sport.

Anyone for tennis?

And so to Finland…

The same Parliamentary plenary saw the presentation of the programme of activities of the Finnish Presidency.

Part of Helsinki’s focus will be on making the EU more competitive while ensuring social inclusion.

Antti Rinne, the Finnish prime minister, said that Finland believes that its better to seek answers to complex questions together rather than alone.The future should be socially, economically and ecologically sustainable, he said, adding that the slogan for the Presidency neatly states this goal: Sustainable Europe – Sustainable Future.

The EU now needs a positive and comprehensive long-term strategy for sustainable growth, he went on, adding that since wellbeing and economic policies go hand in hand, Finland’s Presidency will promote the EU’s social dimension and investments in education, training and skills.


MEP Iratxe García Pérez called for a revision of the European Semester and adoption of a new pact on sustainable development. This should be legally binding to make sure that the economic, social and environmental objectives are on equal footing. 

Meanwhile, Martina Andersson said she doesn’t want Ireland to crash out of the EU because of Brexit, pointing to a democratic process that could lead to unification of the island. Meanwhile UK MEP Luisa Porritt, fearing that Brexit will be bad for both sides, appealed for an extension of Article 50.

Her fellow Brit Diane Dodds expects that the Finnish presidency will be dominated by the Brexit date of 31 October, adding that the EU must avoid trade barriers with the UK.

Did you all stockpile that popcorn, yet? Enjoy the weekend!


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Category: A Frontpage, EU, European Alliance for Personalised Medicine, Health, Personalised medicine

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