As my second year in the office started in the beginning of November, I want to look back, take stock and share some thoughts with you on this first year in the European Commission, in Brussels, in Belgium.

My former experiences – as a medical doctor, as a MP in charge of the European Affairs Committee or as Minister of Health and especially as a member of the Convention on the Future of Europe – were a good pre-school training and provided me with tools and necessary preparation to make it a very enjoyable year.

Sometimes I hear people saying that I am an idealist but I would say that I am simply a profound enthusiast of the European Union and hence a strong supporter of the community method. And even more so now, after this year, as I witness first hand that some issues under my portfolio – in public health, on health determinants and risk factors need a strong commitment and support from all my colleagues and beyond.

More can be done to help healthy people to stay that way. I find it particularly painful to see hundreds of thousands of Europeans dying ahead of their time due to alcohol and tobacco use, obesity, lack of physical exercise. In the EU, we are still quite weak on these things. We spend a lot of money on care while we should go for instruments that prevent illnesses to occur in the first place.

I must admit that sometimes over the past year I wished some things move faster. But my ambition for change remains strong and I am going to maintain the cap advocating for more action in public health at the EU level.

The upcoming year brings more challenges and hot potatoes to work on. To mention a few, we will conclude the impact assessment on the endocrine disruptors – an issue particularly sensitive for all of us. I will continue fighting anti-microbial resistance on the EU and global level. And I will also work on the Health Technology Assessment which will help us to reduce the burden on healthcare systems in all Member States.  

As my team and I start the second year committed to delivering on the Commission's priorities, I always advise them as I do encourage myself to live by the old classic words of wisdom "Carpe Diem". In other words, 'seize the day' and make sure that no time is lost on a journey towards delivering better health and better lives to all European citizens.

 

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