EU agency takes stronger role in tackling pandemics

EU agency takes stronger role in tackling pandemics
Credit: EU

The European Parliament and the Council agreed on Monday night on a strengthened role for the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

The revised ECDC mandate will allow the agency to take a stronger role in supporting the EU and its member states in the prevention and control of communicable disease threats and improve European preparedness for future health challenges.

“Today we take one step closer to a stronger European Health Union,” said Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, and Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides (29 November).

“A Union that has all the necessary tools at its disposal to continue decisively addressing COVID-19 and that is ready for future health crises,” they added.

“Since the start of the pandemic, ECDC has been at the forefront of EU’s “common efforts to face this unprecedented situation, providing timely and clear risk assessments and maps to facilitate safe free movement, tracking the virus outbreak in the EU and recommending measures to control it,” according to the Commissioners.

“Without this work, coordination at EU level would not have been as strong as it is today.”

In June, the Commission presented ten lessons learnt from the current COVID-19 pandemic with a focus on what has to be improved and what can be done better in the future. Is the new mandate and role for ECDC based on lessons learnt during the coronavirus crisis?

At yesterday’s press briefing (30 November), a Commission spokesperson confirmed that one of the lessens learnt during the crisis was that EU indeed needs to learn lessons about the way the pandemic was handled.

Besides ECDC, the European Medicines Agency will also be strengthened, he added.

The agreement means state-of-the-art surveillance of future outbreaks, more joint preparedness and response planning with member states, stronger guidance during emergencies and more support to member states at all stages of health crisis management, including through the assistance of a standing, ready-to-be-deployed EU Health Task Force.

ECDC welcomed the Commission proposals to amend its mandate and establish a new Regulation on serious cross-border threats to health to improve the EU health security framework. “These initiatives would reinforce ECDC’s role and capabilities in many key areas, ultimately creating a safer and healthier Europe that would be better prepared to deal with existing and future health threats,” it told The Brussels Times.

The new role might require more resources to ECDC but that will be decided by EU’s budget authorities.

To finalise the puzzle, the EU will also put into place strong EU rules for cross-border health threats and an empowered European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA). In the announcement the Commission also stressed that a political agreement on all the European Health proposals needs to be reached as soon as possible.

The regulation on ECDCs strengthened role will now have to be formally adopted by the Council and the European Parliament before it can enter into force.

M. Apelblat
The Brussels Times`

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