#EAPM – Commissioners (and Boris) to get their day in ‘court’

| September 13, 2019

While the British government awaits a UK Supreme Court ruling over whether Prime Minister Boris Johnson misled the Queen over the proroguing of Parliament, the Ursula von der Leyen team of would-be Commissioners await their turn for a grilling by MEPs, writes European Alliance for Personalised Medicine (EAPM) Executive Director Denis Horgan.

The European Parliament currently plans to hold two hearings on 30 September, six on 1 October, another six on both 2 and 3 October, and three on 7 October.

The three proposed Commission executive vicepresidents will take their turns on 8 October, with the final vote on the entire Commission planned fo23 October.

As well as facing tough questioning from deputies, von der Leyen and some candidates could also  be questioned by law enforcement authorities and parliamentary committees undertaking investigations. It’s generally thought that not every candidate will survive the process (we’re talking about Rovana Plumb(Romania), Polands Janusz Wojciechowski and Hungarys László Trócsányi).

Even without such looming shadows, the hurdles for commissioners-designate to vault over are high. European Parliament rules require a majority of at least two thirds among the most influential MEPs, which meansthe political groups’ committee coordinators, for an immediate ‘pass’.

The rules state that: “If co-ordinators cannot reach a majority of at least two-thirds of the committee membership to approve the candidate”, he or she mustanswer additional questions in written form or reappear before the committee. If a two-thirds majorityis still not reached, a simple majority in a full committee vote wouldusuallysuffice.

Even before the upcoming grilling for each, it seems all is not well. Green MEP Karima Delli, who is chair of the transport committee, this week gaineda significant majority backing a request that Parliament send a letter to the Commission president-elect calling for the renamingof Vice President-designate Margaritis Schinas’ portfolio, currently titled “protecting the European way of life” and which includes the migration file. 

Delli waded straight in and called itan insult to EU values”. Oopsie! Let’s see where that goes…

New jobs for the…ladies

Meanwhile, Denmark’s Margrethe Vestager is in charge of “a Europe fit for the digital age”, which means she has plenty to oversee, not least in the realm of the sharing of important medical data in the personalised medicine age, including genomes exchanges and, of course, e-health records.

Elevating three executive vice-presidents from an eight-strong group of VPs is without doubt the biggest structural change that von der Leyen announced earlier this week, at the same time as describing her Commission as a “geopolitical” one.

As one commissioner-designate put it (Valdis Dombrovskis, who is a former prime minister of Latvia), the von der Leyen Commission aims “to be leaders rather than followers” in light of an expected radical transformation” of EU economies and societies.

Dombrovskis has a huge portfolio, handling: “economy, social policy, social dialogue, investmentfinancial stability, financial services”. Good luck with all that, Valdis.

Incoming Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides (Cyrpus) has already, we’re happy to note, emphasized priorities includingthe supply of affordable medicinesthe implementation of the new medical devices regulation,and the creation of a European Health Data Space.

She also highlighted antimicrobial resistance, vaccination and a European plan to beat cancer.

As promised, vdL has tasked Kyriakides with formulating the cancer plan, which would support Member States in improvingprevention and care. 

Meantime, Bulgarian Commissioner Mariya Gabriel will take the innovation and youth portfolio for her second stint in the Berlaymont. This covers research policy and the Horizon Europe programme. Go Mariya! 

EAPM joins the show

And in the heart of EAPM Land, the Alliance is organising a roundtable on 8 October from 8h onwards in the European Parliament, not long after major meeting we’ll be holding at the ESMO Congress in Barcelona.

Said EAPM Executive Director Denis Horgan: “Of course, we’ll be walking the hallways to the MEPs’ offices long before the meeting, but this roundtable in early October obviously comes at an important time.

“Topics up for discussion on the morning of the 8th will include  time given our planned, ongoing engagement with certain new commissioners,” Horgan explained.

He went on to emphasize that the crucial topics on the table at the morning meeting on the 8th will include realizing the potential in the declaration of cooperation for the One Million Genomes project,with a focus on the issues relating to realworld evidence.

Also up for discussion will be cancer and rare diseases,with a specific focus on lung and prostate cancers,in terms of early diagnosis.

Linked to the above will be the subject of molecular diagnostics and biomarkers with a view to formulating a workable framework to facilitate their optimal use, and what Denis describes as “positioning EU leadership in the area of personalised health care”. AI is also on the table for the gathering.

Survival rates on the up

And while we’re talking about cancer, survival rates have been improving over two decades in a number of developed countries, including some in the EU, according to a report published by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

The report says that “Over 1995–2014, oneyear and fiveyear net survival increased in each country across almost all cancer types,” and added that five-year rectal cancer survival increased more than 13%in Denmark, Ireland, and the UK.

The report’s authors say that these improvements probably result from major healthcare reforms and technological advances enabling earlier diagnosis, plus more effective and tailored treatment;, as well as better patient management.

And finally…

When the chips are down, or in this case up, you can always count on your elected representatives to swing into action. Are you sitting down? Because here comes a real scandal – the cost of French fries in the MEPs’ Brussels canteen has risen.

Yes, we know. it beggars belief. Especially as chips are fattening, right?

Read this shocked and outraged message from the staff committee, which we reproduce here (with due-and-fair warning to frite-heads everywhere): “On 5 August, when most of us were away on holiday, canteen prices in Brussels skyrocketed. 

The average price hike was 12% overnight. And over the last two years, some products have got way more expensive. Coffee has gone up 25%, salad 37% and French fries a massive 67%. In Belgium!

Armin Machmer, Parliaments director of logistics (which includes the canteens), will appear before the staff committee next week to answer questions about the price hikes.

Doubtless von der Leyen will be watching the process from afar with considerable interest. Bon appétit!

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