Building a European Health Union

EESC opinion: Building a European Health Union

Key points

  • The EU and Member States should ensure that everyone has equal access to quality health and social services.

  • Appropriate measure should be taken to improve the working conditions and health and safety of health workers.

  • Better coordination between the EU, Member States,, regional and local levels including civil society will increase efficiency to benefit people in the EU.

  • The EESC asks the European Commission (EC) to ensure that access to the vaccination remains a public good. The availability of future vaccines should not be impaired by intellectual property rights and EU legislation on data and market exclusivity.

  • The crisis response mechanism and the European Health Union should also include a focus on non-communicable diseases for their link with communicable diseases and on mental health.

  • Regarding the EU regulation on serious cross-border threats to health, the EESC stresses the need: to stockpile and develop medicines that are useable and affordable for the entire population; for preparedness in protecting high-risk groups to begin immediately, particularly with regard to those in closed settings and institutions; for data collection to be better disaggregated to provide a clear understanding of the people most at risk; and for medical innovations and responses to be accessible to all, regardless of their income, MS or region of residence.

  • In light of the renewed mandate of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the EESC underlines the importance of making the reduction of health inequalities in the EU central to the Centre's work, as well as of including non-communicable diseases; being fully equipped to collect fully disaggregated and anonymised data, and generate recommendations on the social and commercial determinants of health[1]; and of having a mandate to monitor investments and generate recommendations on the financing of health surveillance, risk assessment, preparedness and response, both for the EU and the national level.

  • When it comes to the reinforced role for the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the EESC urges that: the Medicines and Medical Devices Steering Groups include and meaningfully consult civil society and social partners; the EMA also work with all health stakeholders to establish a European model for pricing medicines in a fair, accountable and transparent way.

  • The new EU health package should be combined with the roll-out of the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR), the Action Plan on the EPSR and be part of achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3.

  • The overlap between the objectives of the different regulations needs to be addressed and the mandates of the different agencies clarified.

  • The EESC invites the EC to present a report by June 2021 on the lessons learned so far from the pandemic.