Brussels, November 22 - The European Parliament yesterday confirmed Malta’s Dr Tonio Borg as the new European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy. During last week’s hearing at the European Parliament (1), Dr Borg committed to abide by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (2), to proactively combat discrimination, and to fully respect the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) community. Dr Borg also pledged to support the Commission’s proposal for gender balance in executive boards, and to keep up the EU’s fight against HIV/AIDS. EPHA commits to working with the new Commissioner to ensure that Europe retains its leading role on these issues.
We welcome Dr Borg’s integrity and strong leadership, essential traits for a health Commissioner, and we trust that Dr Borg will be true to his words that his personal views will not interfere with his public duties in a portfolio that deals with sensitive areas such as sexual health and reproductive rights, equity of access to health care, health promotion, disease prevention, and the reduction of health inequalities. These are all issues where impartiality is key, as they are of enormous importance to hundreds of millions of people living in Europe. We applaud the European Parliament’s recognition of this, and its trust in Dr Borg to lead the health portfolio.
We look forward to seeing Dr Borg’s pledge to take forward the long-delayed review of the Tobacco Products Directive realised. In his hearing, Dr Borg promised to, without further delay, release an ambitious directive by January 2013, stating that the timetable had been “encouraged and endorsed by Commission President Barroso”. EPHA will continue to work to support the new commissioner and his services on this and other important dossiers such as novel foods, the economic crisis’s impact on health and health systems, and the clinical trials and medical devices directives.
In his hearing, Dr Borg clearly stated that a "top priority” of his term will be to fight conflicts of interests. We welcome Dr Borg’s commitment on this issue; the College of Commissioners should work together to ensure the upmost transparency when working with stakeholders. It is an issue of particular relevance in Dr Borg’s portfolio, as too often economic interests are put ahead of public health interests. EPHA would like to stress that the EU is a signatory to the World Health Organisation’s ’Framework Convention on Tobacco Control’ (3) and that the guidelines (4) require a high level of transparency and openness in contacts with the tobacco industry. Former health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou pledged to Members of the European Parliament: "I am ready to commit today to not accepting any invitation from the tobacco industry or those working in its interests so long as I hold office"(5). We would like to see a similar commitment from Dr Borg, a bold and committed leader for public health.
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Javier Delgado Rivera, Communications Coordinator- +32 2 233 38 76 or email@example.com