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FEAM Board statement: EU cooperation on health

12 June 2020

The EU needs stronger public health powers and better coordination of health research, according to members of the Board of European academy network FEAM

The COVID-19 pandemic has lead profound wounds across all the EU. Initial responses were described as slow and uncoordinated, not only at EU level, but also globally. Scientific uncertainty about the virus, the difficulty of implementing highly restrictive measures, lack of preparedness, and dissimilar capacities of national and regional health systems did not help. However, the limited EU public health response was aggravated by its limited powers vis-à-vis Member States. These limits should be better evaluated after the crisis unfolds.

With this statement, the FEAM Board join the voices of other stakeholders, civil society, and the EU Parliament, calling for dialogue and the potential deepening of EU powers to coordinate public health and health research alongside EU Member States.

The FEAM Board calls for:

  1. The approval of the EU4Health Programme as proposed by the EU Commission for 2021-2027 in line with a recent resolution of the European Parliament;
  2. The creation of an expert Task Force to review challenges and opportunities to strengthen the role of the EU to coordinate emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic, antimicrobial resistance, shortages of medicines, or the complex effects of migration and climate change in health. A wide and inclusive dialogue with other stakeholders, Member States and EU Institutions, would be key to design suitable proposals and significantly improve the coordinating role of the EU. FEAM offers to be an active part of this Special EU Task Force;
  3. The Task Force should clearly identify and examine areas where the optimal provision of healthcare should be facilitated through cooperation between the EU and Member States;
  4. In addition, ongoing reflections such as the need for health economic evaluation of innovations (HTA) on a pan European level (avoiding duplication and waste of resources), enhancing equal access to all EU citizens, and decreasing health inequalities should be assessed;
  5. The Task Force should also consider other areas where the EU could lead to stronger coordination with the appropriate funding and political will, including the use of artificial intelligence for large clinical databases and European clinical trials, and the EU role in coordinating research and innovation, including for clinical research defining optimal therapeutic strategies and without commercial aim.

The current crisis should lead to address urgent problems, but also to a much longer-term discussion inspired by the EU values of solidarity and sustainability, which may include a redefinition of public health and health research coordination at the EU level. The FEAM Board believes that this dialogue could also take place in the context of the “Conference on the future of Europe”, which will provide an opportunity to renew the pact between EU citizens and Member States, and calls for the Conference to start as soon as possible.

Read the full statement here.

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