Check Against Delivery
It is a great pleasure to be here with you today.
The European Parliament and the Special Committee on Beating Cancer have played a crucial role in this journey - since we took the very first steps towards Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan over two years ago.
We are determined to successfully tackle cancer, to strengthen prevention, treatment and care, to eradicate inequalities, improve research, and make a concrete difference to the lives of citizens by working together.
For many of us, this Plan, its prioritisation, its implementation, its every action, is also personal.
We have each been touched by cancer in different ways. Personally, with our families, our friends, our colleagues. Now, we have an opportunity with this Plan to make a real difference.
I am particularly grateful to the Members of the BECA Committee, the rapporteur MEP Trillet Lenoir and the shadow rapporteurs for their dedication and passionate work on the report. I want to thank you for the many extensive and constructive exchanges we had during the last year. We share the same vision.
This is the first time Europe has a Plan with EUR 4 billion allocated to it for its actions, and a Plan that looks at the whole picture. First of all, prevention is the most effective way to tackle cancer. We need to give citizens the tools and information they need to live healthier lives – and that is why we will update the European Code against Cancer. This will give citizens up-to-date and understandable recommendations on how they can reduce the risk of cancer.
We want to improve health literacy, achieve a tobacco-free Europe, reduce harmful alcohol consumption, and improve health promotion.
These are all achievable goals that will improve people’s lives and health in tangible and significant ways.
The second area that concerns prevention and where we will be working intensively this year is to update the Recommendation on cancer screening. Screening saves lives and we will make sure that citizens across the EU can benefit from our future EU supported Cancer Screening Scheme.
Early diagnosis saves lives – this is not a cliché, it is a fact.
Preventing cancer at the work place is also key. Today, 52% of annual occupational deaths in the EU can be attributed to work-related cancers. This is why we are particularly happy that in December we agreed on the fourth revision of the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive. This important step will help us to improve the protection of more than 1 million workers in the EU.
Another important goal of the cancer plan, reiterated also in your report, is to ensure that all patients across the EU, regardless of where they live, have access to quality-assured diagnostics and treatments.
It is simply unacceptable that where you live in the EU determines your access to early diagnosis, treatment and level of care.
In this respect, at the end of 2021 we launched the EU Network linking National Comprehensive Cancer Centres, which will enable countries to work together to treat patients with complex conditions.
We also, only two weeks ago, launched the Cancer Inequalities Registry, an important tool to identify trends, disparities and inequalities between Member States and regions and help us channel investments where needed.
High-quality cancer care relies on a high quality cancer workforce, and this is also highlighted in the BECA report. The new inter-speciality cancer-training programme aims to deliver a more skilled and mobile cancer workforce through cross-border training and information-sharing.
The Plan also addresses quality of life issues. Social integration is crucial. I’m very pleased that we will very soon present a report on fair access for those whose lives have been touched by cancer to financial services. This is a guide to our work on an important issue: the right to be forgotten, now recognised in many Member States.
Today is International Childhood Cancer Awareness Day. I pay tribute to the children, their parents, their siblings, their families, who go through this journey. To support the young persons whose lives have been touched by cancer, we have launched an EU Network of Youth Cancer Survivors to connect them and their families, as well as social and health professionals active in cancer prevention and care across the EU.
These were just some examples of our recent and upcoming initiatives on the implementation of this Plan. Of our Plan.
The Cancer Plan is continuously working in tandem with the Horizon Europe Mission on Cancer, ensuring coherence between ambitious research goals and realistic policy aims. As you highlight in your report, research and innovation has a crucial role in our fight against cancer. We have recently launched the first calls under the Horizon Europe programme, which will increase the understanding of cancer and support our initiatives on screening and quality of life. In the coming years, both initiatives will enhance research, innovation, data, digitalisation and new technologies.
Today’s discussion comes at a time when COVID-19 has significantly impacted cancer care, delaying screening and early diagnosis, postponing treatment and surgeries. This makes our Plan and your report even more significant.
We will also work hand in hand with this Parliament.
To reach out to our citizens, who are at the very centre of the Plan, and to various stakeholders in our Member States, the European Parliament and the BECA committee have an indispensable and irreplaceable role.
This is our common journey. And like the journey of a cancer patient and their family, it is a long and winding road.
We will walk this road together in order to deliver what citizens rightfully expect from us: to make a real difference against the realities of this disease.