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Ministers strongly support the strengthening of the European Health Union

Met dank overgenomen van Sloveens voorzitterschap Europese Unie 2e helft 2021, gepubliceerd op dinsdag 12 oktober 2021.

At an informal meeting in Slovenia, EU health ministers addressed building a resilient health union. They discussed important topics for European health systems and took note of the current state of the pandemic and vaccination as presented by the European Commission.

“Leading the debate on building a resilient health union is a priority of the Slovenian Presidency. The pandemic has shown the vulnerability of our health systems, and Ministers agreed on the need to take action now and to strengthen cooperation between Member States, especially to increase the accessibility of medicines and ensuring their deliverability,” said Minister Janez Poklukar, adding that the ministers contributed to the preparation of the conclusions of the EU Council, which will be discussed at the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council meeting in December.

The ministers agreed on the need to improve the autonomy of the EU in the field of medicines, in particular by improving production capacities for medicines within the EU. The pandemic has revealed there is a high level of risk if we are too dependent on markets outside the EU.

The Slovenian Presidency's proposals on the need for enhanced cooperation between countries, increased financial investment in health, and support for the implementation of innovative solutions for resilient health systems were supported by the ministers. The ministers gave their strongest support among the highlighted proposals to methods for improving the drawing down of EU funds for investments in health and identifying good practices of efficient health systems that could be introduced in other member states.

The Member States confirmed the efforts of the Slovenian Presidency to make progress regarding the legislation trio and would like to see documents adopted by the European Parliament as soon as possible. The HERA proposal was also subject to discussion, with Member States agreeing that there should be a body capable of responding to all health threats.

In the final session, the ministers also discussed the current state of the pandemic, the achievements of cooperation and further joint steps for a safe autumn. These steps include the continuation of work to ensure vaccination coverage across Europe, as well as compliance with recommendations and implementation of pandemic containment measures. They highlighted an example of good practice, the digital COVID certificate, which allows citizens to travel easily within the EU.

In the discussion, Minister Poklukar pointed out: “The provision of vaccines, a comprehensive vaccination strategy and compliance with all other preventive measures, such as wearing masks and regular testing, have borne fruit.”

The high proportion of vaccinated population at the European level has contributed to the slowdown of the epidemiological situation. The total vaccination coverage of the adult population in Europe is now over 70%. "However, disinformation and reluctance remain as people decide whether to be vaccinated against COVID-19,” the Minister pointed out.

EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides, briefed ministers on progress in vaccination against COVID-19. “Our common vaccination strategy has proved to be a tangible success, and the vaccination rate is increasing across the EU. In some member states, however, vaccination rates are still alarmingly low. We must do everything we can to ensure that this does not turn into a pandemic of the unvaccinated, either in the EU or worldwide. Today I called on health ministers to not abandon the rest of the world and to fulfill their global commitments. We are not safe if we do not vaccinate the rest of the world. The success of the EU vaccine strategy has demonstrated the importance of EU cooperation and solidarity in responding to cross-border health threats. This is the plan and model that we are following in our joint work to build a strong European Health Union,” she said at a press conference at the end of the session.

The European Commissioner presented the situation in Europe in terms of vaccination coverage and the common goals that must be set in the light of European solidarity in order to achieve global vaccination coverage.

The meeting took place in a hybrid form, with the health ministers of the Czech Republic, Germany, France and Sweden meeting at Brdo pri Kranju, and other ministers connected via a web link.

Besides the European Commissioner, the meeting was attended by the WHO Regional Director for Europe, Hans P. Kluge, while the directors of the European Medicines Agency (EMA), Emer Cooke and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), Andrea Ammon participated remotely.


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