Tuesday

24th May 2022

Officials: Health should become EU 'critical infrastructure'

  • The pandemic showed how some EU countries were forced to rely on others for key medical supplies (Photo: Leaf)

Senior officials are now calling for the EU's disparate healthcare systems to be included as "critical infrastructure" in the light of the interdependencies between member states exposed by the coronavirus pandemic.

A group of officials argue in a new white paper that the existing European Programme for Critical Infrastructure Protection (EPCIP) could now play a key role in EU's public health emergency preparedness.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The signatories include former MEPs, top officials from the EU's External Action Service and former heads of Intelligence Service.

The EPCIP is currently focused on protecting national and European energy and transport infrastructure, although health infrastructure is - in theory - included too.

Critical infrastructures are complex systems - such as pipelines, power plants, stock markets, railways - whose destruction or disruption could lead to significant loss of life or material damage.

However, hospital facilities, laboratories or emergency stockpiles of medical equipment also fit this description - especially when the coronavirus pandemic has shown how some EU countries were forced to rely on others for protective equipment, test and other types of resources.

"The pandemic should be a wake-up call that the EU is facing collective risks requiring not just collective answers, but also the acknowledgement of the already existing interdependencies [of its health systems]," said Alexandru Georgescu, one of the signatories and expert from the National Institute for Research and Development in Informatics in Bucharest.

"The goal of the white paper is to highlight the existence of a mechanism for cooperation, coordination, communication and for the dissemination of best practices which can already be applied to the health sector," Georgescu told EUobserver.

"Countries have to understand these pre-existing interdependencies to increase systemic resilience not just in the face of terrorism or cyber-attacks, but also in the face of severe unanticipated non-deliberate disruptions such as the pandemic," he added.

The white paper also states that the European Commission should coordinate with member states to identify the critical health infrastructures, which are key in the response to the current and possible future health crisis in the EU.

"The EU should not be preparing for the next coronavirus or the next pandemic, but for the next health crises, also in interconnection with other crises such as food, water, energy, ... - which may involve different scenarios and the admission that full prevention, while it must be attempted, is not feasible," reads the white paper.

Expect the unexpected

"The EU must 'expect the unexpected'," it adds.

The white paper also proposes different initiatives to enhance EU's competence in the health sector, including a European Anti Epidemic Force in collaboration with Nato or a specific agency to fight pandemics similar to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Additionally, the group of signatories urge the expansion of the role, authority and resources of the Emergency Response Coordination Centre and a European Crisis Management Laboratory - which are currently responding to the EU commissioner for crisis management, Janez Lenarčič.

In December, member states concluded that protecting national and European critical infrastructures is a key priority for the EU and invited the commission to update rules previously adopted back in 2008.

The new proposal is expected to be announced by the EU's executive body at the end of this year and to include an impact assessment, according to the work programme.

However, it itself could be postponed due to coronavirus.

Romania: Inside the EU's worst healthcare, as virus hits

The country's lack of investment in the medical system, widespread corruption, politically-appointed hospital managers and staff shortages (as droves of doctors and nurses left to work in other European countries), severely weakened Romania's ability to deal with an emergency.

WHO warning on lockdown mental health

As billions of people are obliged to remain in home quarantine or isolation with possible or proven coronavirus infection, experts agree that these measures can have a negative effect on people's mental health and well-being.

Opinion

Paying a high cost: EU's role in Spain's painful health cuts

The EU should either conduct, or ask states to conduct, human rights impact assessments of country-specific recommendations to ensure that the implementation of austerity measures does not result in reduced human rights protections.

Summit cut health & research, despite second-wave fear

The new EU4Health programme was the EU's flagship scheme for research and innovation but was brutally cut by leaders during this week's summit - from €9.4bn proposed just two months ago, to €1.67bn.

Opinion

What Europe still needs to do to save its bees

On World Bee Day, it is essential to pay homage to a variety of pollinating insects crucial for our food security. A number of EU projects contribute to their sustained survival.

Opinion

The EU Parliament Covid inquiry: the questions MEPs must ask

A basic lack of transparency around the EU's vaccines procurement negotiations has prevented effective public and parliamentary scrutiny. It has also made it impossible to answer some of the key questions we put forward here.

News in Brief

  1. France 'convinced' Ukraine will join EU
  2. Von der Leyen: Russia hoarding food as 'blackmail'
  3. Legal action launched against KLM over 'greenwashing'
  4. Orbán refuses to discuss Russia oil embargo at EU summit
  5. Turkey's Erdogan snubs Greek PM
  6. ECB: Crypto may pose a risk to financial stability
  7. UK PM Johnson faces renewed questions over Covid party
  8. Sweden gives 5th Covid shot to people over 65, pregnant women

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. Orbán oil veto to deface EU summit on Ukraine
  2. France aims for EU minimum-tax deal in June
  3. 'No progress in years' in Libya, says UN migration body
  4. Toxic pesticide residue in EU fruit up 53% in a decade
  5. Orbán's overtures to Moscow are distasteful and detrimental
  6. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth is back
  7. EU aims to seize Russian assets amid legal unclarity
  8. Close ties with autocrats means security risk, Nato chief warns

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us