Connect with us


#EAPM - Conference, Digital Day 3, and the rights of patients




We use your sign-up to provide content in ways you've consented to and to improve our understanding of you. You can unsubscribe at any time.

So, EAPM’s presidency conference is over for another year - and the 7th edition was, like its predecessors, a great success, writes European Alliance for Personalised Medicine (EAPM) Executive Director Denis Horgan.

And now, totally unlike Brexit, we move on with something constructive under all our belts…

At least something else very definitely constructive took place on the same day as the Alliance event, namely the European Commission’s third edition of its Digital Day initiative. More of that later…

Meanwhile, fresh from the EAPM conference, today (10 April) the Alliance’s Executive Director Denis Horgan spoke in a session for European Patients’ Rights Day in the Brussels seat of the European Parliament.


The event was entitled ‘Delivering patient value throughout the healthcare system.Focus on Digital Health and Personalised Medicine’ and Horgan said that “where there is a right, there is also a duty to act and this goes in two ways”.

Elaborating, he went on: “There is a right for patients to expect the best diagnosis and treatment and the duty of the healthcare institutions to do their best to deliver this

“But it also goes the other way”, he said, “with the citizen or patient having a societal public health duty to take some responsibility for being treated earlier.”


“This makes the individual effectively a part of the health-care system, helping to ensure that they themselves stay as healthy as possible.”

“Coupled with this is a right fort the institution to expect that for example, adherence is increased and good governance exists,” the EAPM chief added.

At the same event, Professor Walter Ricciardi, who among other responsibilities is a member of the expert panel for the EU Commission's DG Health and Food Safety and sits on the executive board of the World Health Organization, highlighted the importance of public health and emphasized the need to "keep the person in personalised health care".

Back to Digital Day 2019…

Stakeholders will doubtless remember that, this time last year at Digital Day 2, the MEGA initiative saw a swathe of member states sign a declaration to gather one million genomes across Europe by 2022.

The 2019 edition saw a presentation of the guidelines for trustworthy artificial intelligence (or AI),by the High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence (HLEG AI), which led to panel discussions with member states' ministers, third countries and other stakeholders.

Introducing this year’s event at the Steigenberger Wiltcher’s hotel in Brussels, the audience heard speeches from Commission Digital Single Market Vice President Andrus Ansip, Digital Economy and Society Commissioner Mariya Gabriel and, on behalf of the current Romanian Presidency, Alexandru Petrescu, who is minister for communication and information society in Bucharest.

To get things under way, Commissioner Ansip pointed out that the digital single market has come a long way since they held the first Digital day in Rome two years ago.

He added that the events have been a springboard in several waysin that time, as the Digital Single Market has progressed and taken shape, Europe has speeded up digitalization in general, and member states have been able to bring together their resources, talents, initiatives and ideas.

Digital Days, he said, have made it possible for Europe to work more closely on supercomputing, digital industry, connected and automated driving, which represent the commitments made at the first Digital Day in 2017. 

Last year, the event focused on Artificial Intelligence, blockchain, eHealth and innovation. And these are all areas where the Digital Single Market can have a direct impact on people's futures, the commissioner said.

He added that, slowly but surely, the Digital Single Market dream is becoming a reality. People already feel the difference in their daily lives, with the end of roaming surcharges and of unjustified geo-blocking, for example. 

We’ve also seen new rules to stimulate competition and investment in 5G networks and improved online access in rural areasamong other signs of progress.

Meanwhile, we’ve also seen net neutrality rules to give Europeans the right to access content of their choice onlineno interference or discrimination, and no blocking or throttling.

Meanwhile, there has been stronger cybersecurity, leading to better protection against online threats.

The commissioner of course mentioned that fact that the EU has also achieved stronger protection of data, both personal and commercial, from implementing the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

GDPR has given Europe the toughest and most modern data protection rules in the world, he said, and these rules are becoming the global standard. 

Commissioner Ansip also reminded attendees that aJoint Undertaking that pools national and EU resources to build world-class supercomputing and data infrastructure is nowin place.

 Opportunity knocks

Turning to the focus on AI at Digital Day 2019, the commissioner said that what the Digital Single Market has achieved regarding data has laid the groundwork for the Commission's work to develop a European strategy for human-centric AI. 

Last year's declaration on AI formed a basis for the European strategy and the Coordinated Action Plan with all EU countries (plus Norway) on board, he reminded attendees. Most countries are now preparing their AI strategy or already have one. 

Trust is a big issue alongside data and investment for the successful development of AI.The Commission approach has built on ethics guidelines prepared by the expert group, and a strong and functioning Digital Single Market is under construction. This, said the commissioner, is Europe's people and businesses to get the most and best from the digital age.

Commissioner Gabriel said that the digital transformation is impacting economies and societies in every aspect. 

Digitization is an opportunity to advance technologies,but alsotorethink the very nature of the more established processes. This also raises important challenges, she said, notably for more growth and jobs in Europe.

On the topic of AI, she said that in the wake of last year’s Declaration the challenges for the future remain numerous and include ethics,but also the need for investment.

Technologies such as AI, robotics, the Internet of Things and fast broadband connections, including 5G, are instrumental for the sustainability and competitiveness of European farms and rural businesses, commissioner Gabriel told the audience.

Alexandru Petrescu, Romania’s minister for communication and information society, emphasised the need to understand how Europe can be more competitive and innovative. He welcomed the ambitious approachof the Juncker Commission to set as a key European priority the achievement of a fully digital market and prepare citizens, companies and administrations to reap the benefits of advanced digital technologies. 

The added that the strategy has provided businesses the opportunity to scale up and ensured reliable, high speed and affordable networks and services for all. This has boosted Europe's competitiveness, he said.

But the minister stressed that the EU needs to increase the number of digital experts to meet the new and challenging demands in today's labour market.

AI and ethics

Regarding the next steps on AI guidelines, Commissioner Gabriel said that AI has huge potential to transform the world, and can change industries that have an impact on daily life, such as health, for example.

The European AI strategy is based on three pillars: 

  • Being ahead of technological developments and encouraging uptake by the public and private sectors.
  • Preparing for socio-economic changes brought about by AI.
  • Ensuring an appropriate ethical and legal framework.

The commissioner noted that there is an increase of annual investments in AI by 70% due under the research and innovation programme Horizon 2020. The figure will amount to €1.5 billion for the period 2018-2020. 

On top of this, the Co-ordinated Plan on AI set out an action list that will make it possible to reinforce the development of AI in Europe,as well as prepare the ground for the implementation of Digital Europe.

The Commission now wants all member states to put their own national AI strategies in place by June this year. Meanwhile, the High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence, comprising representatives from academia, civil society, as well as industry, was appointed. It was tasked with producing recommendations regarding investment and policiesand has come up with sevenprinciples on AI ethics. 

These address issues such as responsibility, transparencynon-discrimination, data protection, and the impact on society and the environment.

The next steps will see the pilot phase observe intangible aspects, while assessing whether the principles should be adjusted or reinforced. 

Together "we should show the ability to build consensus around a human centric and ethical AI", Commissioner Gabriel said.

Following the introductory speeches, the guidelines were presented by AI HLEG Chair Pekka Ala Pietila and an initial panel discussion took place involving Jekaterina Rojaka, who is vice minister of the economy and innovation in Lithuania, Andrea Cioffi, state secretary of economic development in Italy, Marek Zagorski, minister for digital Affairs, Poland, Mona Keijzer, state secretary for economic affairs and climate policy in the Netherlands and Petr Očko, the deputy minister for industry and trade in the Czech Republic.


Commission approves €45 million Belgian scheme to support companies affected by the coronavirus outbreak



The European Commission has approved a €45 million Belgian scheme to support companies active in the Brussels-Capital region affected by the coronavirus outbreak and the restrictive measures that the Belgian government had to implement to limit the spread of the virus. The public support was approved under the State Aid Temporary Framework. Under the scheme, which goes under the name 'la prime Relance', the aid will take the form of direct grants. Eligible beneficiaries are companies of all sizes active in the following sectors: nightclubs, restaurants and cafés (‘ReCa') and some of their suppliers, events, culture, tourism, sport and passenger transport. In order to be eligible, companies must have been registered in the Central Bank for Enterprises (‘la Banque-Carrefour des Enterprises' ) by 31 December 2020. The Commission found that the Belgian scheme is in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. In particular, the support (i) will not exceed €1.8 million per company; and (ii) will be granted no later than 31 December 2021.

The Commission concluded that the measure is necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a member state, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. On this basis, the Commission approved the measure under EU state aid rules. More information on the Temporary Framework and other actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.64775 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.


Continue Reading

European Commission

Macro-financial assistance: EU disburses €125 million to Bosnia and Herzegovina and €50 million to the Republic of Moldova



The European Commission, on behalf of the EU, has carried out another round of disbursements under the €3 billion macro-financial assistance package for ten enlargement and neighbourhood partners. The programme is a concrete demonstration of the EU's solidarity with its partners to help respond to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Commission has disbursed €125 million to Bosnia and Herzegovina and €50 million to the Republic of Moldova. This support is provided through loans at very favourable rates. With these disbursements, the EU has successfully completed five out of the 10 MFA programmes in the €3 billion COVID-19 MFA package, and disbursed the first tranches to all partners. The Commission continues to work closely with the rest of its MFA partners on the timely implementation of the agreed policy programmes. 


Continue Reading

European Commission

NextGenerationEU: European Commission endorses Finland's €2.1 billion recovery and resilience plan



The European Commission has adopted a positive assessment of Finland's recovery and resilience plan. This is an important step towards the EU disbursing €2.1 billion in grants to Finland under the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF). The financing provided by the RRF will support the implementation of the crucial investment and reform measures outlined in Finland's recovery and resilience plan. It will play a significant role in enabling Finland to emerge stronger from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The RRF is the key instrument at the heart of NextGenerationEU which will provide up to €800bn (in current prices) to support investments and reforms across the EU. The Finnish plan forms part of an unprecedented coordinated EU response to the COVID-19 crisis, to address common European challenges by embracing the green and digital transitions, to strengthen economic and social resilience and the cohesion of the Single Market.

The Commission assessed Finland's plan based on the criteria set out in the RRF Regulation. The Commission's analysis considered, in particular, whether the investments and reforms contained in Finland's plan support the green and digital transitions; contribute to effectively addressing challenges identified in the European Semester; and strengthen its growth potential, job creation and economic and social resilience.


Securing Finland's green and digital transitions  

The Commission's assessment finds that Finland's plan devotes 50% of the plan's total allocation on measures that support climate objectives. Finland has announced an ambitious target for achieving carbon neutrality by 2035. The reforms and investments included in the plan will make an important contribution to Finland achieving this objective. The plan addresses each of the highest emitting sectors in turn, namely energy, housing, industry and transport. It includes reforms to phase out the use of coal in energy production, changes to taxation to favour cleaner technologies, and a reform of the Waste Act with increased targets for recycling and reuse. On the investment side, the plan will finance clean energy technologies and related infrastructure, industry decarbonisation, the replacement of oil boilers with low- or zero-carbon heating systems and private and public charging points for electric cars.

The Commission's assessment finds that Finland's plan devotes 27% of its total allocation on measures that support the digital transition. The plan includes measures to improve high-speed internet connectivity, particularly in rural areas, support the digitalisation of businesses and the public sector, enhance digital skills of the workforce and support the development of key technologies such as artificial intelligence, 6G and microelectronics.


Reinforcing Finland's economic and social resilience

The Commission considers that Finland's plan includes an extensive set of mutually reinforcing reforms and investments that contribute to effectively addressing the economic and social challenges outlined in the country-specific recommendations addressed to Finland in recent years.

It contains a broad set of reform measures to raise the employment rate and strengthen the functioning of the labour market, ranging from the transformation of Public Employment Services to improving and facilitating access to social and healthcare services. The plan includes specific measures to provide integration support for young people and people with partial work-capacity. The plan also includes measures to strengthen the effective supervision and enforcement of Finland's anti-money laundering framework.

The plan represents a comprehensive and balanced response to the economic and social situation of Finland, thereby contributing appropriately to all six pillars referred to in the RRF Regulation.

Supporting flagship investment and reform projects

Finland's plan proposes projects in all seven European flagship areas. These are specific investment projects, which address issues that are common to all Member States in areas that create jobs and growth and are needed for the green and digital transition. For instance, Finland has proposed to provide €161 million to investments in new energy technologies and €60m toward the decarbonisation of industrial processes to support the green transition. To support the digital transition, the plan will invest €50m in the rollout of rapid broadband services and €93m to support the development of digital skills as part of continuous learning and labour market reforms.

The Commission's assessment finds that none of the measures included in the plan significantly harms the environment, in line with the requirements laid out in the RRF Regulation.

The Commission considers that the controls systems put in place by Finland are adequate to protect the financial interests of the Union. The plan provides sufficient details on how national authorities will prevent, detect and correct instances of conflict of interest, corruption and fraud relating to the use of funds.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “I am delighted to present the European Commission's endorsement of Finland's €2.1bn recovery and resilience plan. I am proud that NextGenerationEU will make a significant contribution to support Finland's goal to become carbon neutral by 2035. The plan will also help bolster Finland's reputation for excellence in innovation with support for the development of new technologies in areas such as artificial intelligence, 6G and microelectronics. We will stand with Finland throughout the plan's implementation to ensure that the reforms and investments it contains are fully delivered.”

An Economy that Works for People Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said: “The Commission has today given its green light for Finland's recovery and resilience plan, which will set the country on a greener and more digital path as it recovers from the crisis. This plan will help Finland to meet its ambitious carbon-neutrality target by 2035, with reforms and investments that will reduce carbon emissions from energy production, housing, industry and transport. We welcome its focus on high-speed connectivity, particularly for sparsely populated areas to help maintain their economic activity, and on digitalising smaller businesses and the public sector. With reforms to boost employment and strengthen the labour market, Finland's plan will promote smart, sustainable and inclusive growth once it is put into effect.”

Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said: “Finland's €2.1bn recovery and resilience plan is strongly focused on the green transition. No less than 50% of its total allocation is set to support climate objectives, helping to speed the country towards its ambitious target of carbon neutrality by 2035. The plan also contains an array of measures to boost Finland's already strong digital competitiveness. I particularly welcome the Finnish plan's strong social elements, with measures to raise the employment rate, tackle youth unemployment and facilitate access to social and healthcare services.”

Next steps

The Commission has today adopted a proposal for a decision to provide €2.1bn in grants to Finland under the RRF. The Council will now have, as a rule, four weeks to adopt the Commission's proposal.

The Council's approval of the plan would allow for the disbursement of €271m to Finland in pre-financing. This represents 13% of the total allocated amount for Finland.

The Commission will authorise further disbursements based on the satisfactory fulfilment of the milestones and targets outlined in the recovery and resilience plan, reflecting progress on the implementation of the investments and reforms. 

More information

Questions and Answers: European Commission endorses Finland's €2.1bn recovery and resilience plan

Factsheet on Finland's recovery and resilience plan

Proposal for a Council Implementing Decision on the approval of the assessment of the recovery and resilience plan for Finland

Annex to the Proposal for a Council Implementing Decision on the approval of the assessment of the recovery and resilience plan for Finland

Staff-working document accompanying the proposal for a Council Implementing Decision

Recovery and Resilience Facility

Recovery and Resilience Facility: Questions and Answers

Recovery and Resilience Facility Regulation

Continue Reading