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#EUstrivesformore - President-elect von der Leyen unveils her 'geopolitical Commission'



Ursual von der Leyen addressed the European Parliament, July 2019

Today (10 September), President-elect Ursula von der Leyen (VDL) presented her team and the new structure of the next European Commission college. The new structure reflects the priorities and ambitions set out in the Political Guidelines that received broad support from the European Parliament in July, writes Catherine Feore.

VDL wants the EU to lead on a “transition to a healthy planet and a new digital world”. But she is keen to emphasize that no one should be left behind. In some ways she has adopted the language of Macron and a Europe that protects. She referred to creating opportunities for all wherever they live, their gender, their age.  

President-elect Ursula von der Leyen said: "We will take bold action against climate change, build our partnership with the United States, define our relations with a more self-assertive China and be a reliable neighbour, for example to Africa. This team will have to stand up for our values and world-class standards. My Commission will be a geopolitical Commission committed to sustainable policies. And I want the European Union to be the guardian of multilateralism. Because we know that we are stronger by doing together what we cannot do alone."

The President-elect repeatedly referred to the new Commission as “a geopolitical Commission”.  

Earlier this year, the European Council on Foreign Relations commissioned YouGov to carry out surveys covering more than 60,000 people across Europe, the study found that European citizens appear to be more enthusiastic about the EU taking on a stronger geopolitical role than reflected by the current EU policies.  

ECFR - European Council on Foreign Relations

There will be three executive vice presidents (Vestager, Dombrovskis, Timmermans) and a further five vice presidents, including the High Representative, Josep Borrell. That makes a rather top-heavy eight vice presidents.  

Three executive vice presidents will have a double function. They will be both vice president responsible for one of three core topics of the President-elect's agenda and Commissioners. 

Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans (Netherlands) will co-ordinate the work on the European Green Deal. He will also manage climate action policy, supported by the Directorate-General for Climate Action. 

President-elect Ursula von der Leyen said Europe’s Green Deal would become Europe’s hallmark: "Those who act first and fastest will be the ones who grasp the opportunities from the ecological transition. I want Europe to be the front-runner. I want Europe to be the exporter of knowledge, technologies and best practice."

Timmermans is a First Vice President in the current Commission, in his current position he has been a strong advocate for and defender of the rule of law and the EU's fundamental values.

Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager (Denmark) will co-ordinate our whole agenda on a Europe fit for the digital age. That the EVP will retain her role as the Commissioner for Competition, was met with surprise. 

President-elect Ursula von der Leyen said: "We have to make our single market fit for the digital age, we need to make the most of artificial intelligence and big data, we have to improve on cybersecurity and we have to work hard for our technological sovereignty."

Big tech will be concerned by this assertion of a need for technological sovereignty. Vestager’s decisions as Competition Commissioner in the current mandate angered many of these companies, as well as the EU’s work on data protection, copyright and digital sales tax riled those companies who felt that the EU was unfairly focusing on them.  

Valdis Dombrovskis will become the executive vice president for 'An Economy that Works for People' which will be a continuation of his current role, but without Pierre Moscovici to upstage him.  His role will cover financial services, supported by the Directorate-General for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union. 

President-elect Ursula von der Leyen said: "We have a unique social market economy. It is the source of our prosperity and social fairness. This is all the more important when we face a twin transition: climate and digital. Valdis Dombrovskis will lead our work to bring together the social and the market in our economy."

The five other vice presidents

Josep Borrell (Spain, current Spanish Foreign Minister): HR/VP-designate, A Stronger Europe in the World; 

Věra Jourová (Czech Republic, commissioner in the Juncker Commission): Values and Transparency; 

Margaritis Schinas (Greece, former MEP, long-serving official of the European Commission): Protecting our European Way of Life; 

Maroš Šefčovič (Slovakia, vice president in the Juncker Commission): Interinstitutional Relations and Foresight; 

Dubravka Šuica (Croatia, MEP): Democracy and Demography.  

The other commissioners-designate are:  

Johannes Hahn (Austria) will be in charge of ‘Budget and Administration', and will report directly to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. As a long-serving member of the College, he knows about the importance of nurturing a modern administration.   

Didier Reynders (Belgium), who trained as a lawyer, is a highly experienced former national finance minister, minister for foreign and European affairs and minister of defence. In the new Commission, he will be responsible for ‘Justice' (including the topic of the rule of law).   

Mariya Gabriel (Bulgaria) is a current European Commissioner. She worked with dedication and energy on the digital portfolio, and is now moving on to create new perspectives for the young generation (‘Innovation and Youth' portfolio).   

Stella Kyriakides (Cyprus) is a medical psychologist with many years of experience in the field of social affairs, health and cancer prevention. She will lead the ‘Health' portfolio.   

Kadri Simson (Estonia) is a long-serving member of the Estonian parliament and Minister for Economic Affairs and Infrastructure. She will be in charge of the ‘Energy' portfolio.   

Jutta Urpilainen (Finland) was not only Finance Minister and a long-standing member of the Finnish Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee; she has also worked as a special envoy in Ethiopia. She will take over responsibility for ‘International Partnerships'.   

Sylvie Goulard (France), former MEP, is a dedicated and convinced European. As the ‘Internal Market' commissioner, she will lead our work on industrial policy and promote the Digital Single Market. She will also be responsible for the new Directorate-General for Defence Industry and Space.   

László Trócsányi (Hungary) is the former minister of justice of Hungary. He will lead the ‘Neighbourhood and Enlargement' portfolio.   

Phil Hogan (Ireland), the incumbent commissioner for agriculture, will bring his experience to the new Commission in the ‘Trade' portfolio.   

Paolo Gentiloni (Italy), former Italian prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, will be sharing his vast experience in the ‘Economy' portfolio.   

Virginijus Sinkevičius (Lithuania), Lithuanian minister for economy and innovation, will be responsible for ‘Environment and Oceans'.   

Nicolas Schmit (Luxembourg) is bringing his experience from the European Parliament and his service as national minister for Employment and Labour, and will now be responsible for the ‘Jobs' portfolio.   

Helena Dalli (Malta) has dedicated her political life to equality, serving as minister for social dialogue, consumer affairs and civil liberties, and also as a Minister for European Affairs and Equality. She will lead the ‘Equality' portfolio.   

Janusz Wojciechowski (Poland) was a long-serving Member of the European Parliament in the Agriculture Committee and is currently a Member of the European Court of Auditors. He will be in charge of the portfolio ‘Agriculture'.   

Elisa Ferreira (Portugal) is currently Vice-Governor of Banco de Portugal. She has been a Member of the European Parliament for many years, and was the Portuguese Minister for Planning and Minister for Environment. She will lead the ‘Cohesion and Reforms' portfolio.   

Rovana Plumb (Romania) is a Member of the European Parliament (Vice-President of the Social and Democrats Group), and is a former national minister of environment and climate change, minister of labour, minister of European funds, minister of education and minister of transport. She will be in charge of the ‘Transport' portfolio.   

Janez Lenarčič (Slovenia) is a Slovenian diplomat. He was secretary of state for European Affairs, and worked closely for several years with the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the European Union. He will be in charge of the ‘Crisis Management' portfolio.   

Ylva Johansson (Sweden) is national minister for employment and also a former minister for schools and minister for health and elderly care and member of the Swedish Parliament. She is also a highly respected expert in the fields of employment, integration, health and welfare. She will lead the ‘Home Affairs' portfolio. 


Update: Co-operation under the microscope in COVID-19 crisis – EAPM EU Presidency Conference report available



As coronavirus infections soar across the planet, and the death toll rises everywhere, not least in Europe, many are asking why European Union member states were so disconnected from each other strategy-wise, and what the EU can do about improving co-ordination this second time round, writes European Alliance for Personalised Medicine (EAPM) Executive Director Denis Horgan. 

Well, given that health care is a jealously guarded member state competence, locking-down the answer isn’t easy, and never has been. But that doesn’t help Europe’s citizenry, given that COVID-19 is no respecter of borders and national sovereignty. 

This was one of a myriad discussion items discussed in our recent virtual Presidency Conference entitled ‘Ensuring access to innovation and data-rich biomarker space to speed better quality of care for citizens’. You can read the report here.

As highlighted during the Presidency Conference, there is potential future promise in the European policy context, with the legislative and policy initiatives currently on the EU agenda – most recently – the declaration of Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in favour of European Health Union which was discussed during the conference. 

EAPM has always argued for more EU-wide co-operation and coordination in health care, and the current crisis has only made that need more obvious. 

Indeed, for the best part of a decade,  the Alliance has been calling for policies to tackle diseases of many different types - not least cancer - through new science and personalised healthcare, with the backing of many MEPs.

It is apt that throughout the topic-specific discussions of the Presidency Conference, the broader themes that emerged most insistently were collaboration and communication, since these have been the hallmarks of EAPM’s activity since its initiation. 

EAPM is by definition a collaborative exercise, bringing together the broadest range of stakeholders – as this conference again demonstrated. And communication has been at the heart of EAPM’s activity, since its role is not just as a thinktank for refining ideas, but as a vehicle for transmitting those ideas from the world of healthcare to the broader world of policy, where the decisions are made that ultimately shape the way health is delivered. 

Principal recommendations 

Although there was no formal process of agreeing recommendations at the meeting, the following are among the recurring recommendations from the discussions. 

  • Inequalities in access to testing and treatment across Europe must be addressed

  • Adequate data infrastructure and processing capacity must be available.

  • Real-world evidence must be developed and acceptance criteria agreed with regulators, HTA agencies and payers.

  • Greater flexibility in regulatory requirements is needed to accommodate evaluation of products destined for small populations.

  • Multi-stakeholder collaboration must be developed to agree research priorities, standards and quality assurance of testing, and evaluation criteria for testing and treatments.

  • Trust must be developed among citizens about the security and possible  use of their data.

  • Communication must be developed by healthcare stakeholders to persuade policymakers to effect constructive change.  

The link to the report is available here.

1 million genome meeting on 21 October

Registration is still very much open for the B1MG meeting on 21 October. The aim of the the 1 million Genome Project is to support the connection of national genomics and data infrastructures, co-ordinate the harmonization of the ethical and legal framework for sharing data of high privacy sensitivity, and give practical guidance for the pan-European coordination of implementing genomic technologies in national and European health-care systems. 

Thus, the B1MG is a means to bring the different stakeholders together on Oct 21st so as to act as a catalyst to provide a benchmark approach for alignment of complex, fractionated health-care provisions into health-care systems.

Register here and read the full agenda here.

Have the best week possible, and keep safe.

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We’re disappointed by EU but a deal can be done, says Raab




Britain is disappointed by the European Union’s demand that London give more concessions to secure a trade deal but a deal is close and can be done, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Friday (16 October), write Guy Faulconbridge and Paul Sandle.

“We are disappointed and surprised by the outcome of the European Council,” Raab told Sky News.

“We’ve been told that it must be the UK that makes all of the compromises in the days ahead, that can’t be right in a negotiation, so we’re surprised by that but the prime minister will be saying more on this later today.”

“Having said that, we are close,” Raab said of a deal. “With goodwill on both sides we can get there.”

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France reports more than 25,000 new coronavirus infections in past 24 hours




A doctor, wearing a protective mask and a protective suit, works in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) where patients suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are treated at the Bethune-Beuvry hospital in Beuvry, France. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

The French health ministry reported 25,086 new confirmed coronavirus cases in 24 hours on Friday (16 October), after reporting a record 30,621 on Thursday (15 October), writes Geert De Clercq in Paris.

It also reported that 122 people had died from coronavirus infection in hospitals in the past 24 hours, compared with 88 on Thursday. Including deaths in retirement homes - which are often reported in multi-day batches - the death toll increased by 178 on Friday.

The total number of infections since the start of the year now stands at 834,770, the cumulative number of dead at 33,303.

The number of people in hospital with COVID-19 rose by 437 to 10,042, exceeding 10,000 for the first time since mid-June, and the number of people in intensive care rose by 50 to 1,800, a level last seen in mid-May.

In the past seven days, France has registered nearly 14,800 new coronavirus infections, which is more than the 132,430 registered during the entire two-month lockdown from mid-March to mid-May.

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