Brussels, 5 September – Over the last two days, the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) held its two-day annual conference entitled “Tectonic tensions – wealthy Europe’s fear of commitment”. The event brought together more than 30 speakers (1) from across Europe’s health professions, governments, the European Commission, civil society and an audience of more than 200 people.
The conference addressed the future of public health in Europe just before the start of business of the new European Parliament and Commission as well as the review of the EU’s long-term objectives (Europe 2020). The main topics discussed were:
Protecting and improving the health of everyone living in Europe is a core value of the EU. The economic crisis however forced many EU Member States to make across-the-board budget cuts. It resulted in shrinking health care and social budgets that undermined access to, and the quality of, health care. Overall, the crisis severely worsened health outcomes (2). The EU’s role in addressing this decline in public health and the limits of the reach of ‘Brussels’ were discussed along the lines of should the EU be doing more or should it be doing what it does better.
“The EU has made, and will continue to make, a meaningful contribution to improved public health in Europe by supporting and facilitating co-operation between EU countries, as well as by supporting the efforts of certain countries in the reform of their health systems. The current consultation on the Europe 2020 review is a window of opportunity for stakeholders committed to health to stress the importance of the health sector to the European economy, and to highlight areas where EU collaboration should be strengthened,” said Mrs Testori Coggi, Director-General for DG Health and Consumers, European Commission.
Speakers in the room agreed that a closer collaboration between the EU and its Members States is crucial to achieve better health for all. As Mrs Pilar Farjas Abadía, the Spanish Secretary of State for Health and Consumers, said, “Spain looks forward to further collaborating with the EU and its Member States in the framework of the EU semester and Europe 2020 to support efforts to improve public health, provide universal access to healthcare for all European citizens and further promote health and disease prevention.”
The European public health community is deeply concerned that decades of hard-fought public health gains may be set back if the TTIP is not negotiated in a way that protects social safeguards and health (3). These include concerns over technical barriers to trade, intellectual property rights and drug patenting, challenges to the way that the EU and Member States regulate on food safety, chemicals, alcohol and public services. Yet Mr Ignacio Garcia Bercero, director at DG TRADE and the EU Chief Negotiator on TTIP, believes that the TTIP will be able to both promote economic growth and protect social rights. As he said, “I am convinced that we can achieve an ambitious TTIP agreement that fully respects our legislative framework and protects public health in the EU.”
As Peggy Maguire, EPHA President concluded, "without the involvement of the health community and proper consideration of health impacts, the TTIP risks undermining social and public health safeguards. The TTIP negotiators should uphold the European values of democracy and human rights in their negotiations, including the right to health. This trade pact must not uphold mechanisms that empower firms to sue governments outside of national or European legal structures."
Javier Delgado Rivera EPHA Communications Coordinator Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Phone: +32 (0)2 230 3076.
(1) See the agenda of EPHA’s 5th Annual Conference
The conference’s presentations are available below:
Johan P. MACKENBACH- Professor of Public Health and Chair of the Department of Public Health at Erasmus MC, University Medical Center Rotterdam
Roberto BERTOLLINI - Director, WHO Office at the European Union
Christina PAPANIKOLAOU - Secretary General for Public Health, Greece
Anna GLAYZER - Consumer International Global Programme Manager for nutrition and food safety
Franco SASSI – Senior Health Economist, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
Sofie MANANTSOA – Medical Coordination, Médecins du Monde
Julien DIJOL- Policy Coordinator, Cecodhas Housing Europe
Linda MANS - Coordinator of health workers for all project, WEMOS
Matthias WISMAR - Senior Health Policy Analyst, European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies
Jos G.H. DRAIJER – former Counsellor for Health, Welfare and Sport at the Netherlands Permanent Representation to the EU
Rita BAETEN - European Social Observatory (OSE)
Pilar FARJAS ABADÍA - Secretary of State for Health and Consumers, Spain
Eleanor BROOKS – EPHA Researcher
Usman KHAN – Director, Modus Europe