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EESC Endorses a Robust and Inclusive EU Health Union

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has taken a strong stance in favour of building a European Health Union, calling on the EU and the Member States to respond to Europeans' demand that it make health a priority.

With recent surveys showing that 66% of Europeans would like the EU to have more say over health-related matters, and more than a half in favour of public health becoming the EU's top priority in terms of expenditure, the EU should start playing a more active role in protecting the health of its citizens. The EESC thinks that the Commission's recent package on an EU Health Union is a step in the right direction.

In an opinion adopted at its April 2021 plenary session, the EESC welcomed the package on an EU Health Union as the starting point for delivering on the right to good quality healthcare for all Europeans. This will ensure that good quality health services are guaranteed and available to all EU citizens, regardless of their social and economic status or their country or place of residence - which is still not the case at present.

Commenting on the EESC's position, EESC president, Christa Schweng said: "These initiatives are the first steps towards the genuine European Health Union we need, in which all EU Member States work together to improve prevention, treatment and aftercare of diseases. Such a Union would allow EU countries to be prepared for and manage any future health crisis together. Actions in this field also need to take into account the views of civil society and the social partners, which have played a crucial role in protecting and promoting rights during the pandemic."

The pandemic demonstrates how crucial the collaboration among European countries is to protect health, both during a crisis and in normal times when it is possible to tackle underlying health conditions and invest in strong health systems. ECOPNET (European Cooperation & Partnership Network) would like to highlight the importance of EU-level protection, prevention, preparedness and response against human health hazards and future crises.

The EU's ongoing coordinated vaccination strategy and joint vaccine procurement is proving to be insufficient according to EESC. In this respect, the EESC called on the Commission to ensure that vaccines remain a public good which is free and available for all people. Their future availability should not be hampered by intellectual property rights or market exclusivity.

However, the EESC also warned that the efforts to build a sound Health Union may need to expand beyond coordination alone. Once the pandemic is over, and the national and EU responses to it have been fully evaluated, there may be a case for broadening EU competences in this field through a possible revision of the EU Treaties and in line with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. This would reaffirm health protection as a public good.

Source: European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) News


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