MEPs want to strengthen the European Health Union and the resilience of national health systems for the future.
Over the past year, the European Parliament’s special committee on the COVID-19 pandemic has analysed the impact of the crisis, assessed the effectiveness of national and European measures and made specific recommendations to fill gaps and strengthen weaknesses in their actions. Parliament debated the report on Tuesday and on Wednesday adopted the text by 385 votes in favour, 193 against and 63 abstentions.
MEPs have drawn up a clear roadmap to guide future EU action, which rests on four pillars: health; democracy and fundamental rights; social and economic aspects; and the global response to the pandemic.
The main proposals include improving the EU’s strategic autonomy over medicines, transparency in joint procurement processes and greater parliamentary oversight – at both national and EU levels – of legislation on emergencies. MEPs also call on the EU to optimise the use of recovery funds to strengthen the single market and hope that coordination at the global level will be improved by the international pandemic treaty under preparation.
Detailed recommendations can be found here.
The chair of the special committee, Kathleen Van Brempt (S&D, Belgium), said: “Our committee has made a thorough assessment of how the pandemic unfolded and how it affected the Union. The conclusion is that Europe not only needs the tools to develop long-term policies, with clear objectives and a clear roadmap: but it must also be prepared to act quickly and efficiently and in the interests of all Europeans. It must thoroughly assess its role in the world’s response to the pandemic and commit, now more than ever, to international cooperation and solidarity, especially with its partners in the Global South. It is now up to the European Commission to make proposals on the basis of our recommendations so that we can create a Union that is more resilient to crises and better prepared for the future.
The rapporteur, Dolors Montserrat (EPP, Spain), said: “This report is the result of dialogue, consensus and rigour. The EU’s response to the pandemic was exemplary: it secured us vaccines and NextGenerationEU funds and prepared us for future health emergencies. We must strengthen the Union even further, to protect our health workers, to make sure that no disease escapes us and to help the most vulnerable in society. We must boost research, fight fake news and cyber-attacks and create a competitive pharmaceutical sector to reinforce the EU’s strategic autonomy in health.
On 10 March 2022, the European Parliament set up the Special Committee on Pandemic COVID-19: Lessons Learned and Recommendations for the Future (COVI). This committee assessed not only the impact of the pandemic on health systems or the vaccination campaign, but also the broader socio-economic impact, the consequences on the rule of law and democracy, and the international response to the pandemic. To this end, it organised an extensive consultation process through public hearings, workshops and field visits, during which it exchanged views with experts, policymakers from European institutions and international organisations, epidemiologists, national health authorities, pharmaceutical companies, health professionals and researchers.
By adopting this report, Parliament is responding to citizens’ expectations to strengthen our health systems and EU competitiveness, and to ensure equitable access to health for all, as expressed in proposals 8(3), 8(4), 8(6), 8(2), 10(2) and 12(12) of the conclusions of the Conference on the Future of Europe.