In the State of the Union address delivered on September 16, the European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, called for the need build a stronger European Health Union. She remarked: “For me, it is crystal clear – we need to build a stronger European Health Union. And to start making this a reality, we must now draw the first lessons from the health crisis. We need to make our new EU4Health programme future proof. This is why I had proposed to increase funding and I am grateful that this Parliament is ready to fight for more funding and remedy the cuts made by the European Council. And we need to strengthen our crisis preparedness and management of cross-border health threats.
As a first step, we will propose to reinforce and empowerthe European Medicines Agency and ECDC – our centre for disease prevention and control. As a second step, we will build a European BARDA – an agency for biomedical advanced research and development. This new agency will support our capacity and readiness to respond to cross-border threats and emergencies – whether of natural or deliberate origin. We need strategic stockpiling to address supply chain dependencies, notably for pharmaceutical products. As a third step, it is clearer than ever that we must discuss the question of health competences. And I think this is a noble and urgent task for the Conference on the Future of Europe.”.
She began her address by stating that a virus a thousand times smaller than a grain of sand exposed how delicate life can be. “It laid bare the strains on our health systems and the limits of a model that values wealth above wellbeing. It brought into sharper focus the planetary fragility that we see every day through melting glaciers, burning forests and now through global pandemics. It changed the very way we behave and communicate – keeping our arms at length, our faces behind masks. It showed us just how fragile our community of values really is – and how quickly it can be called into question around the world and even here in our Union”.