Check Against Delivery 


Minister, Honourable Members, distinguished guests and speakers, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

In January 2020, I invited many of you to have the first exchanges on our embryonic Cancer Plan.

At that point, none of us knew what was ahead of us. None of us expected that a pandemic of this magnitude would soon ravage the world and change our way of life.

None of us could imagine that a year later, an estimated 1 million cancer patients could be undiagnosed in Europe, that screening would no longer be performed or that surgery and chemotherapy would no longer be performed on many patients.

COVID-19 has impacted on the cancer community, European citizens, patients and families very hard.

Our ambition with Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan since the outset was always to turn the tide against this disease. A tide made even higher by COVID-19.

Almost a year after the launch of the Cancer Plan, our resolve for change is even greater, and for that reason, I am truly pleased to be here with you today -- to update you on the progress we have made – and, in the spirit of this year’s European Cancer Summit, to show how we are turning the Plan into action.

For the first time in the EU, we have a common EU plan to address cancer. It is a plan that is ambitious, and it is a plan that has clear policy objectives and significant funding to deliver on the ambition and objectives.

It is the only plan of its sort that rallies so many countries and stakeholders across a common goal - to make a difference and improve the realities for cancer patients and their families.

What makes the cancer policy under the Cancer Plan new and different? 

Part of the answer lies in our integrated, health-in-all-policies, multi-stakeholder approach.

Our integrated approach means that we cover the entire disease pathway, through the four main pillars of the Plan:

  • prevention;
  • early detection;
  • diagnosis and treatment; and
  • quality of life.

On top of this, throughout the Plan we focus to address two major issues.

On the one hand, we seek to reduce inequalities between and within Member States and between population groups; on the other, we seek to harness the broad potential that research and innovation has to offer.

Our unique health-in-all-policies approach means that this Plan is the result of impressive cooperation across many Commission policy departments and many of my colleagues have contributed to the Plan with actions and funding.

And our multi-stakeholder approach shows our position is that, governments and public health authorities cannot address cancer alone. We need oncology experts, patient advocates and citizens on board as well.

That’s why the governance of the Cancer Plan is a joint effort. And this is why the Cancer Plan is a plan for Europe.

For the first time, we have brought together around the table Member States, the wider stakeholder community, the different Commission departments, the European Parliament to discuss cancer through dedicated bodies like the Stakeholder Contact Group.

I’m very glad to see that the European Cancer Organisation is so actively contributing to this Group.

Meanwhile, we have been busy launching calls for projects to turn the Cancer Plan’s aims into tangible benefits.

This is the action to bring vision into reality.

Under our new EU4Health programme, which is backing up the Cancer Plan with over €1,2 billion  we have no less than 12 action grants and 4 joint actions this year covering many aspects of cancer prevention and care. Let me outline a few of them for you.  

  • First, regardless of scientific revolutions or modern technologies, prevention will always be better than cure. We have launched the work to update the European Code against Cancer and extend its reach through an EU Mobile App for Cancer Prevention. To all of you present here, I would welcome your help in promoting the Code’s key messages and making citizens more aware of the risk factors for cancer. Prevention is our first line of defence.
  • Second, high-quality cancer care relies on a high quality cancer care workforce. An Inter-speciality cancer training programme will bring the different cancer community sectors closer together and make cancer care more joined-up. In that way, each patient can receive the best individual treatment plan.
  • Third, we need to ensure that patients across the EU can benefit from the collective expertise of our cancer specialists. We have launched grants for Member States for the EU Network linking National Comprehensive Cancer Centres. The aim here is to help the uptake of high-standard and quality-assured diagnosis and treatment, and enable countries to work together to treat patients with complex conditions.
  • Last but not least, a recent call for proposals for the Cancer Diagnostic and Treatment for All initiative will help make innovative cancer diagnostics and treatments more widely available throughout the EU.

In parallel, other key elements of the Cancer Plan are proceeding apace.

  • For instance, we have started work on proposal for next year, designed to revise the Council Recommendation on cancer screening. We need the Recommendation to reflect the very latest in scientific evidence and cancer screening technologies. As you now, we will also consider extending targeted cancer screening beyond breast, colorectal and cervical cancer.
  • And a new Cancer Inequalities Register will help identify national and regional challenges and specific areas of action to guide investment and interventions.

When it comes to quality of life, I made very clear when launching the Plan that social integration is key and that I am in determined to also look at obstacles to access to financial services.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As you can see, in keeping with your Summit’s theme, Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan is in motion.  

This can – and must – be a collaborative effort. COVID-19’s impact on cancer has underlined the vital need for coordination, effective partnerships, support for vulnerable groups and contingency planning for continuity of cancer care in future crises.  

And this is what we intend to do through the Cancer Plan, in close cooperation with you, our key stakeholders.

Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan is a key public health priority. It is one of the founding pillars of a strong European Health Union.

I am very happy to be able to announce to you that the implementation roadmap of the Cancer Plan has just been made public. It will help us chart a path towards a cancer-free future, offering high-quality care and treatment to everyone.

Thankfully, I know that we can count on you and your member organisations to contribute your usual impressive expertise and insight as we take that path together. To deliver what European citizens rightfully expect from us.

Together we are stronger against cancer!