Thursday

13th May 2021

EU Commission aspires for treaty change on health

  • Over 1.3 million people have been infected with Covid-19 in the EU/EEA and the UK (as of 28 May, 2020) (Photo: European Parliament)

The European Commission is hoping for a treaty change so that it has more say on health.

"If the moment is right, it will happen," Margaritis Schinas, the vice-president of the European Commission, told reporters on Thursday (28 May).

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

"Nothing is off the table," he added, noting that a debate will take place at the Conference on the Future of Europe, which is set to spell out the Union's priorities over the next two years.

"I am not now in a position to announce how this health union of the European Union will look like in the future but I think we are now at the first stage of a process that one day will make this a tangible reality," he said.

Schinas' comments follows similar recent statements by French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel.

Both leaders earlier this month in a joint press conference evoked the idea of a European Union better prepared to tackle major health issues like the pandemic.

That political signal appears to have also emboldened the European Commission in its greater aspirations for more power over health.

The European Commission's competences on health are currently restricted. The treaty says it can only "complement national policies" and "encourage cooperation".

However, the Covid-19 pandemic showed member states were unprepared. Some shut down borders, all scrambled for medical supplies, and others even hoarded equipment meant for other EU states.

The lack of solidarity alarmed critics, among them the former European Commission president Jaques Delors. In March, he described it as a mortal danger for the European Union.

EU4Health - a first step

The European Commission has since proposed to shore up a new €750bn recovery package in the hopes of kick starting battered economies.

Part of that plan now includes a new stand alone €9.4bn programme dedicated to health. The figure is 23 times higher than current EU budget lines dedicated to health.

Dubbed the EU4Health programme, the proposal also presented on Thursday, is being described by the Commission as "a game changer, a real paradigm shift" on how the EU deals with health.

"This crisis made it clear that our collective response capacity needs to be brought and raised to a different level," said Stella Kyriakides, the European Commissioner for health and food safety.

EU4Health would run until 2027 and aims to create long term stockpiles and reserves for medical equipment.

It also wants to create a pool of "flying" doctors that can be sent to areas of need.

The European Medicines Agency and the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) also benefit. Both agencies would have more powers when it comes to vaccines and surveillance.

"In terms of the ECDC we need to look how we can improve preparedness plans and surveillance," said Kyriakides.

The Stockholm-based ECDC was criticised for initially painting a rosy picture of the risks linked to the pandemic.

Analysis

EU Commission's €1.85trn recovery package - key points

With an eye-watering over a trillion euro revised budget and a €750bn recovery package, the EU Commission hopes to restart Europe's economy. Here are some of the key aspects of the proposals.

Mix of loans and grants in Commission €750bn package

Italy and Spain, the worst-hit EU countries by the coronavirus pandemic, will get much of the new money under the European Commission's recovery plans - that mark a turning point for the bloc in moving towards joint debt.

Analysis

Coronavirus: What EU can and can't do

Legal limitations means the European Commission's role when it comes to tackling the Covid-19 pandemic is broadly limited to coordination and support. It is up to member states to work together.

Analysis

How the EU's virus-alert agency failed

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, an EU agency, was meant to highlight threats from infectious diseases, but painted a rosy picture of Covid-19.

Catalan MEPs lose immunity, slam 'political persecution'

Catalan separatist MEPs Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí lost their parliamentary immunity - a result they have hailed as a "political victory" for bringing the conflict between Catalonia and Spain closer to the heart of Europe.

12-month Future EU Conference is 'impossible', expert warns

The debate about the much-delayed Conference on the Future of Europe so far has been locked in endless institutional infighting over who should lead the event - lowering the expectations about what can be achieved in the coming months.

News in Brief

  1. No EUobserver newsletter on Friday 14 May
  2. Germany stops Facebook gathering WhatsApp data
  3. Italy rebuts reports of EU deal with Libya
  4. MEPs demand EU states protect women's reproductive rights
  5. At least nine dead in Russia school shooting
  6. Bulgaria interim government appointed until July election
  7. German priests defy pope to bless same-sex couples
  8. New EU public prosecutor faults Slovenia

MEPs chide Portugal and Council in EU prosecutor dispute

The Belgian and Bulgarian prosecutors who were appointed had also not been the experts' first choice. Belgian prosecutor Jean-Michel Verelst has challenged the council's decision at the European Court of Justice.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. EU aims at 'zero pollution' in air, water and soil by 2050
  2. French police arrest Luxembourg former top spy
  3. Vaccine drives spur better-than-expected EU economic recovery
  4. Slovenia causing headaches for new EU anti-graft office
  5. 'No place to hide' in Gaza, as fighting escalates
  6. EU chases 90m AstraZeneca vaccines in fresh legal battle
  7. Fidesz MEP oversees FOI appeals on disgraced Fidesz MEP
  8. Belgium outlines summer Covid relaxation plans

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us