Despite the terrible weather, a fresh wind is blowing through Brussels. In February, EPHA reacted to the EU Commission’s proposal for a Social Investment Package for Growth and Cohesion. Aimed at providing guidance on a better investment in people’s future and social infrastructure, we welcome this package as it dispels the misconception that social protection systems are a burden to the economy. The proposal also recognises the important role of social protection systems in fostering healthy populations and communities. Given that significant reductions in healthcare budgets risk exacerbating problems, undermining access and quality of care, and damaging health outcomes, this belated change of direction is severely needed.
On 19 February, EPHA co-organised an event in the European Parliament (EP) with several EPHA members in which two prominent parliamentarian health groups renewed their support for a strong Tobacco Products Directive (TPD). A major preventable risk factor for cancer and cardiovascular diseases (accounting for over 65% of total mortality in the EU), smoking is by far the largest threat to public health in Europe. One week later, the EP’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) Committee debated this Directive with Ireland’s Health Minister and the EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy. They discussed the draft rules on tobacco additives and labelling, as well as the likely effects that updating the TPD would have on public health, business and tax revenues. This is just the beginning of the public battle on the issue, with EU Member States finalising positions and both the industry and the tobacco control advocates gearing up for difficult months ahead.
In February we also published an open letter to the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO) on the Commission’s Annual Growth Survey (AGS) 2013. While focusing on economic growth and fiscal consolidation, the AGS 2013 carries little in the way of promoting better health, healthy ageing and improving the quality of healthcare. In our statement, we made a series of recommendations to enhance investment in health and sustainable development, and to ensure that the EU’s economic governance supports, and not undermine, a healthy population.
At the end of the month EPHA released a statement on the Commission proposal for a regulation concerning data protection. While recognising the value of health research for individual patient care and the health of society as a whole, this proposal still has some room for improvement. For instance, the text clearly excludes anonymous data from its scope which is essential for public research. In our statement, we urge MEPs to ensure that the rights of individuals are properly balanced with the rights of the collective.
Already in March, and along with the European Public Health & Agriculture Consortium (EPHAC), we voiced disappointment with the European Parliament’s approval to return subsidies to tobacco production. Tobacco cannot have a place in the 2014-2020 EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). With this move, the EP wants to inject taxpayer’s money to a toxic crop that causes nearly 700,000 annual deaths in the EU.
In March, and among other issues, we are focusing on the EP vote on the CAP (a scheme that, on its current shape, leads to increased food prices and unsuitable industrial practices); and on the EU Council, as it meets to discuss the social aspects of the prospective EU’s Economic Monetary Union.
Monika Kosińska, EPHA Secretary General
Read all the online articles from our March 2013 Newsletter
Highlights from previous weeks
EPHA members can find the following new information in the Members Only section