At meeting of deputy permanent representatives to the EU on 23 July 2021, the Council has reached an agreement on draft proposals to bolster the role of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and to amend an EU law on cross-border threats to health.
The ECDC is an EU agency to help the EU fight communicable diseases. The regulation on cross-border threats to health is about ensuring a coordinated response to threats from communicable diseases but also those of chemical, biological and environmental origins.
Janez Poklukar, Slovenian minister for health stated that: "Today's agreement is another important step to make the EU's health security system stronger. We need better coordination, more exchange of relevant data, good planning and capable EU bodies to keep citizens safe and make the EU more resilient for when the next health emergency strikes."
Amendments to the original proposals include better alignment and coordination of recommendations and actions with the World Health Organization. Member states also strengthened data protection provisions. Personal data will not be processed or communicated except in cases where strictly necessary for the fulfilment of the mission of the ECDC or for the purposes of the cross-border threats to health regulation.
Stronger European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control
The updated mandate provides for the establishment of an EU Health Task Force which can, on request, assist member states with their preparedness and response planning and response to the outbreak of communicable diseases. The ECDC will also be tasked with the development of digital platforms for epidemiological surveillance.
New rules on cross-border threats to health
The revised cross-border threats to health legislation provides for the establishment of an EU health crisis and pandemic plan - including provisions on exchange of information, early warning and risk management. Member states, when drawing up their national plans, will liaise with each other and the Commission to seek coherence with the 'Union preparedness and response plan'.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of coordination among European countries to protect people’s health and boost preparedness in view of new cross-border health threats. ECOPNET (European Cooperation and Partnership Network) welcomes the solidarity between the EU and its member states by coordinating and cooperating in the field of health security and medicines safety.
According to the planned new rules the Commission can recognise a public health emergency at EU level, thereby triggering mechanisms to monitor shortages of medicinal products or activate the support of the ECDC.
Background and next steps
These draft rules are part of a broader European Health Union package. The package - put forward by the European Commission on 11 November 2020 - consists of three proposals: in addition to the ECDC mandate and the cross-border threats to health regulation, it also includes a stronger mandate for the European Medicines Agency. On this file the Council agreed a common position (general approach) on 15 June 2021.
The agreement reached on a strengthened ECDC and revised rules on cross-border threats to health provides the Council presidency with a mandate to start negotiations with the European Parliament.
Source: European Council Press Releases