#Health – Two would-be commissioners are dropped, Gabriel impresses, and Boris stonewalls

| October 1, 2019

Greetings, colleagues, and welcome to the first EAPM member update of October, writes European Alliance for Personalised Medicine (EAPM) Executive Director Denis Horgan.

The first thing to tell you is that we had an extremely productive meeting at the ESMO Congress in Barcelona last weekend, and an update on that will be forthcoming very soon.

Back in Brussels, meanwhile, the would-be European Commissioners under Ursula von der Leyen have been having a mixed time of it, with Hungary and Romania’s original candidates already rejected in a closed-door meeting of the European Parliament Legal Affairs Committee.

vote on Monday (30 SEptember) confirmed its rejection of Romanias Rovana Plumb (transport) and Hungary’s László Trócsányi (enlargement and neighbourhood-country relations) on the basisthat their financial affairs could pose conflicts of interest. 

The Commission said that vdL had received a letter setting out the committee’s decision from Parliament President David SassoliShe has since contacted Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his Romanian counterpart Viorica Dăncilă, and “expected to get new names” from the two prime ministers.

“The candidates must be suitable and match the portfolios. If something doesn’t fit, we may have to ask for new names,” aspokesperson said.

Orbán’s next choice may well be Olivér Várhelyi, currently Hungarys permanent representative to the EUand a man well familiar with Brussels politics. 

Meanwhile, Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner-designate for Innovation and Youth, had a much better time of it when she appeared before the European Parliament’s Committees on Culture and Education (CULT), and on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE). 

During the hearing, she presented her priorities and challenges for the policy areas of research, innovation, education, sports, youth and culture, pointing out that she believes in the knowledge triangle of research-innovation-education.

While not focusing on health in particular, the Bulgarian (currently commissioner for digital economy and societyhighlighted the importance of having synergies between Horizon Europe and other EU funding programmes. 

Big health conference

Turning specifically to health, now, and the EU Health Programme HighLevel Conference has just taken place. During the event, speakers highlighted the need to engage stakeholders from across all relevant sectors of society in order to improve national healthcare systems. 

On top of this, panellists were unanimous in their calls for a targeted implementation of EU funds from the various financial instruments to ensure that there is no duplication of actions under the next MFF. 

The importance of increased digitalization in the field of healthcare and a switch from a hospital-centred approach to a patient-centred approach were, meanwhile,put forward as examples of changes which would be required to transform healthcare systems from their current models going forward.

ronique Wasbauer, director at the Consumers, Health, Agriculture and Food Executive Agency, said that the diversity of the audience reflected the wide reach of the health programme, including policymakers, researchers, NGOs and Health Commissioner VyteniAndriukaitis.

She underlined that the current health programme runs until 2020, so will be entering a new periodunderthe next European Commission.

Wasbauer said that, building on past experiences, a new approach for health is being delineated for the period 2021-2027. 

Taking his turn to speak, Commissioner Andriukaitis said the goal was to disseminate information about the health programme to all 500 million EU citizens.

Health is a state of complete physical and mental wellbeing and does not merely mean an absence of disease, he said. Disease prevention is the main objective under this programme, and citizens must be kept as healthy as possible, for as long as possible.

He underlined that health must be promoted across all policy areas, specifically saying that funding must be drawn from other policy areas, such as the CAP and regional funds, to promote heath.

Commissioner Andriukaitis next spoke about the achievements of the health programme, saying that it brought unique European added value by fostering cooperation to complement member states’ national actions. 

Moreover, it contributed to improving the health of EU citizens and reducing health inequalities, while protecting citizens from serious crossborder health threats.

The health programme was instrumental in creating a completely new infrastructure for country specific and crossEU health knowledge, he said.

The Commissioner also pointed out that digital tools are increasingly important in managing health initiatives, explaining that certain actions have focussed on e-prescriptions and, in one case, 4,000 e-prescriptions were exchanged by Finland and Estonia.

Meanwhile, 24 European reference networks have been launched, with these ERNs providing important answers to patients in the form of diagnoses. He used this as what he called an excellent example of cooperation across the EU. 

Going forward, in 2020, mental health will be the priority. Health prevention overall must be promoted, such as in the area of social and behavioural determinants in society, through a variety of funding instruments. 

The goal is to increase transparency and maximize the efficacy of initiatives under the programme.

Health for all is not an empty slogan, the Commissioner said, and should be translated into reality.

The battle against cancer

At the conference, Tit Albreht, of Slovenia’s National Institute of Public Health, said he had been asked to present the two previous joint actions on cancer and the one that is currently under way.

There are three key issues, he said,regarding content and objectives under the programme. These are: prevention, including health promotion and assessing existing and potential screening programmes; cancer care, including delivery of care, a multidisciplinary approach and networking of hospitals; and organisation and governance, including organisational guidelines, national cancer control programmes (NCCPs), quality of cancer care and outcomes.

On the results, he highlighted among other achievements the European guide on quality for NCCPswhich serves as a template of sorts.Meanwhile, the European Cancer Information System (ECIS) was also set up under the programme.

Anne Bucher, director-general of the European Commission’s DG SANTE, said she wanted to look ahead under the next programme, and emphasized that the health programme’s strength is investing in people.

in May 2018, she said, the proposal under the ESF+ was submitted. The ESF+ incorporates a dedicated health strand and its inclusion was designed to create a dynamic between health expenditure and social expenditure.

The health strand, said the DG SANTE chief, will be implemented by the Commissioner for health, in consultation with health authorities in member states.

Meanwhile, the ESF+ will continue, as a cohesion policy instrument, to support health system transformation. 

She added that the Commission is committed to investing in coherent priorities to allow for structural reform in the health sector.

Regarding digital health in Horizon EuropeKhalil Rouhana, Deputy Director-General, DG CNECT, said that digital health transformation will necessitate getting all stakeholders together to work in the same direction.

On funding for e-health, he noted that they had proposed 9.2 billion for deploying digital solutions across Europe, which included areas such as computing and data capacities, AI, building up common data spaces, testing and experimentation facilities, cyber security, enhancing skills and disseminating the technology.

Wallis Goelen, Inclusion, DG REGIO, said that a healthy population is a key factor in fostering smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

Brexit latest 

As this update was being prepared, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, where he said that the “reality” of Brexit is that, after Britain leaves the EU, there will need to be customs checks on the island of Ireland.

Speaking to the BBC,he said: “A sovereign united country must have a single customs territory.”

Johnson refused to give details of his plans, but said formal proposals to the EU would be made soon.

Many people on social media have today pointed out the irony that the venue used for the Tory Party conference has been part-funded…by the EU’s Regional Development Fund. You couldn’t make it up…


Facebook comments

Tags: , , , ,

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

Comments are closed.