Check against delivery. 


Ministers, Honourable Members, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Diseases affect us all one way or the other and to prove this I would like to start my intervention with an experiment to which I would like you all to participate:

Please raise your hands if you know someone - be it parents, relatives or friends - whose life was cut short or affected by diseases that could have been prevented, such as: cancer, diabetes, stroke, lung diseases and the list could continue...

Your hands raised show, once again, the global challenge we face and that we must join our efforts to ensure that people remain as healthy as possible for as long as possible.

In order to achieve this, we need to take a holistic approach and act at all levels – local, regional, national and European.

In this respect, let me stress that you are very powerful  actors because there is much you can do at regional level to change the patterns.

When saying that, I have in mind your crucial role in the fight against risk factors such as tobacco, harmful consumption of alcohol, physical inactivity, unhealthy food, or pollution.

I know your budgets are tight, but if we invest more on prevention today, we will definitely pay less on healthcare tomorrow.


Dear colleagues,

We face many challenges today: our population is ageing and often affected by multi-morbidity. Moreover, major differences in life expectancy and disease burden will continuously increase our healthcare costs. New challenges such as anti-microbial resistance will also make situation more complicated.

I ask you, therefore, to start speaking more often and more loudly about health and what we can do to keep our fellow citizens healthy. Be health ambassadors.

We made a collective commitment at European and national level by signing the European Pillar of Social Rights. Several of its key principles show that health is central, be it that they refer to access to healthcare, work-life balance, social protection, long-term care, children or people with disabilities.

We have also committed to the UN Sustainable Development Goals where health plays an important role. We need to deliver on these commitments.

I acknowledge that we have made a lot of progress across Europe in recent years, of which I am very proud.

There is more collaboration across borders, between national healthcare systems and amongst experts. Take, for example, the 2011 Cross Border Healthcare Directive which strengthens links between health systems and makes it easier for patients to access medical care in other EU member states.

Also, more and more, research and innovation are shared. Best practices and mutual learning are exchanged – to the benefit of patients, their families and healthcare workers.

And what is the foundation for much of these advancements? Close collaboration.

Allow me to touch on some more concrete examples in this respect:

Firstly – cancer screening: today, breast cancer screening programmes are ongoing, piloted or planned in 25 EU Member States for nearly 95% of women in the chosen age group. Screening is one of the most fruitful and cost-effective interventions –it saves lives.   

Secondly – rare diseases: the EU has brought knowledge and expertise together via the European Reference Networks. These networks are already delivering faster diagnosis and better treatment of patients with rare and complex diseases by linking the patient with experts from across the EU.

EU action has also led to better preparedness against cross-border health threats, such as infectious disease outbreaks, including crisis prevention and management.

EU adopted legislation to fight Tobacco harm, addressing therefore the single biggest cause of chronic disease and avoidable deaths in the EU.

So, a lot has been done but we need to further reinforce cooperation and ensure health is high on all our agendas for the benefit of citizens.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

In order to fulfil these commitmentsand keep people as healthy as possible for as long as possible, we need strategic investment. This is, of course, another example of EU added value.

Since we focus on structural funds today, I would like to underline that these have contributed to:

  • reducing health inequalities and boosting healthcare reforms,
  • developing disease prevention and health promotion, 
  • transitioning from hospital-based care to primary care,
  • supporting innovative digital solutions, and
  • institutional and professional capacity building.

Health-investments from structural funds in the period 2014 - 2020 will have delivered improved health services to more than 40 million people in the EU by supporting the transformation of health systems and the development of public health policies.

Proposals for the new Multiannual Financial Framework for 2021 to 2027 include continued support for up-front investments in health and will create closer links between what EU funds support and how structural reforms are being implemented at national level, based in particular, on the analysis and recommendations in the European Semester.

EU funds can also provide loan-based financing, through the current Investment Plan for Europe and the proposed InvestEU Programme. Such loans can help mobilise additional investments from both public and private investors.

All these proposals are now on the table and we need to seize every opportunity to ensure that health is prioritised across programmes.  

The more effectively we coordinate, the greater the impact.

Also, in each Member State, regional and national authorities should define investment priorities in health and prepare integrated investment strategies that combine investment needs in infrastructure, innovative technologies and new care models.

These strategies require blending of financing from various sources: regional, national and EU. They should look beyond their usual funding sources and both develop partnerships with new stakeholders and learn how to manage new financing instruments.

It is true that some health authorities will need to reinforce their capacities and know-how to plan investments in health.

The experience of pioneering authorities offers invaluable guidance. So I encourage you to look closely at the wealth of ideas developed through the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Health Ageing.

The Commission can also help with technical support on the use of European Structural funds. For instance, the EU Health Programme financed the European Structural Investment Funds for Health project, which will be presented later today. This project mapped support across Member States and by subject area; it highlighted concrete examples of financing and organised workshops to share expertise and best practices.

The final results of the project will be presented in presence of Ministers on 6 December 2018. I warmly invite you to participate in this conference to discuss lessons learned and the way forward.


Ministers, Honourable Members, Ladies and Gentlemen,

To meet global challenges, we need territorial answers and a strong EU Cohesion Policy. I firmly believe that EU level cooperation can indeed support Member States and local authorities.

However, we also need coherent, integrated investment strategies and strong coordination between regional and national authorities. We need to reflect on new financing tools and new partnerships to make these investments happen.

I have given you a flavour of how to make full use of EU level support and the instruments available at EU level. There are also good examples and guidance we can draw from early achievements.

Let’s use all of these and work together to transform our health systems and make them more effective, accessible and resilient.

Thank you.