A new key tool to face future pandemics unveiled by the EU

The whole world is experiencing an unprecedented health crisis since the appearance of the coronavirus. In order not to be taken by surprise, the EU is taking the lead and is already preparing for future pandemics. This is why Brussels will unveil on Thursday the outlines of a body endowed with six billion euros in charge of arming the confederation against possible contagions in the years to come. The project consulted by AFP is already arousing strong criticism from MEPs who have been dismissed from the file.

What’s the point ?

Called HERA (“Health Emergency Response Authority”), the new structure must “strengthen the EU’s capacity to prevent, detect and respond rapidly” to the next health crises, by ensuring development, supply, storage and distribution. necessary medical treatment.

In its “Europe of health” project, Brussels had shown in November 2020 its ambition to create the equivalent of the powerful Authority for Biomedical Research and Development (Barda) in the United States, which depends on the American Ministry of Health. health and has colossal resources to collaborate with laboratories.

According to the text to be endorsed Thursday by the commissioners, HERA will not be an independent agency on the model of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) or the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

It will be established “within the Commission, as a shared resource for the Member States and the EU”, a format which will make it possible to make it fully operational “from the start of 2022”, to operate in a flexible manner and to rely on powers and expertise of the European executive, underlines the document.

The structure will have to “strengthen coordination” between the Member States, in conjunction with the pharmaceutical industry, in particular to resolve the problems of shortages and dependence highlighted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

HERA will be steered by a council bringing together experts from the Commission and representatives of the States, and the European Parliament will have to be satisfied with one observer.

If the states, for which health is an exclusive competence, will have to give the green light, the text will not be debated or voted on by the European Parliament. A snub for MEPs gathered this week in Strasbourg.

Not everyone agrees

“Ambitions seem to be on the decline. This authority should not be an empty shell, nor a simple reaction committee in the hands of the Commission and the States ”, regretted Nathalie Colin-Oesterlé (EPP, right), rapporteur of a text on drug shortages.

“We end up with a proposal devoid of any legislative ambition, the Parliament preparing to be excluded from the discussion”, even if “we understand the need to go quickly and be pragmatic”, reacted Véronique Trillet-Lenoir (Renew, Liberals).

MEPs adopted on Wednesday, against the Commission’s opinion, a proposal to broaden the areas of intervention of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), by 598 votes in favor, 84 against and 13 abstentions.

The text, intended to be discussed with the Commission and the States, proposes to extend the agency’s mandate beyond communicable diseases so that it also covers the main non-communicable diseases (cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, cancers, etc. diabetes and mental illness).

Present in Strasbourg, the Commissioner for Health, Stella Kyriakides, had yet said Monday in the hemicycle opposed to such an enlargement.

“This will duplicate the work already done in the Member States (…) and these new tasks will strain ECDC’s resources, contributing to weaken it (for its main missions) rather than to strengthen it”, had -she argues.

The proposed measures should also allow the ECDC to collect more epidemiological data from states, in order to provide better analyzes and models to control outbreaks of contagion, explained the Polish rapporteur Joanna Kopcinska (CRE, nationalist right).

The proposals for revising the mandates of the ECDC, but also of the EMA, “draw the contours of a true European Health Union”, welcomed Ms. Trillet-Lenoir.

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