31 January 2014, Brussels - First of all, I would like to wish everyone a healthy, enjoyable 2014. This year will not only bring us the elections to the European Parliament (EP) in late May, it will also see several policy developments impacting on public health at EU level - such as the likely new Tobacco Products Directive (TPD), and new rounds of trade negotiations between the EU and the US.
Just before the holiday season, the European Council endorsed an agreement reached with the European Parliament for the new EU TPD. This deal will make tobacco packages less attractive so fewer people start smoking, in particular young people. The compromise states that Nicotine Containing Products (NCPs) should be safe and remain accessible to smokers who want to switch to a safer product. The EP will now have to endorse the agreement, we hope it does so without delay so that the new TPD is adopted before the end of the Parliament mandate in April.
On 23 January, the Irish parliament launched a consultation on a draft bill that would introduce standardised tobacco packaging. If the bill passes, Ireland will become the first EU Member State—the second country in the world after Australia—to ban branding from tobacco product packaging. EPHA contributed to the public consultation and issued an open letter and a press statement supporting the General Scheme on Plain Packaging in Ireland and stressing that the Irish example should encourage other EU Member States to step up public health measures to make smoking, the cause of hundreds of thousands of deaths a year Europe, less attractive.
On the same day, the Equity Action’ Final Conference was hosted by the European Commission in Brussels, marking the end of the Joint Action on Health Inequalities. In his speech, Professor Michael Marmot presented the findings of ’’Health inequalities in the EU’’ - the report his consortium produced for the European Commission. In my speech at the conference, I stressed the importance of policies aiming to tackle health inequalities in all policy areas. For this to happen, we need bold and creative leadership engaged with the disadvantaged groups they intend to serve. This is why the NGO sector is essential.
In mid-January, the Directorate-General for Trade (DG Trade) in the European Commission convened the first meeting of the advisory group of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Monika Kosińska, EPHA’s Secretary General, was invited to have a seat in this group. An assembly of experts representing a broad range of interests -environmental, health, consumer, workers’ interests and business sectors- gathered to provide EU trade negotiators with advice on TTIP. This gives the public health community an opportunity to raise concerns and draw attention to the potential health impacts of this large trade agreement. Susanne Logstrup, Director of the European Heart Network, is the nominated alternate for Monika in this group until May.
As some of our subscribers may already know, EPHA recently launched a weekly news feed about the latest developments around the prospective TTIP. If you would like to subscribe to this feed, please contact Cláudia Almeida at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last but not least, I would like to inform you that in the few next days EPHA will be launching its manifesto for the European elections. We will keep you informed about this in due course.
Peggy Maguire, EPHA President
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