Dear Freek, Hans, Ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to join you today for the European Public Health Alliance’s General Assembly.

I was President of an NGO myself so I know how important the input of civil society is to the legislative process. We count on civil society to understand the challenges and needs on the ground, and to deliver better health outcomes for all Europeans.

EPHA is one of the strongest advocates of our work, and has been fundamental to the original ‘EU4Health’ alliance of health civil society groups who called for health to be the top priority of the Commission.

Even before the pandemic, it was clear how much emphasis President von der Leyen placed on health in her political priorities.

A year dominated by the pandemic, has highlighted more than ever the necessity of ensuring health in all policies at EU level.

COVID underlined systemic weaknesses in the EU’s preparedness mechanisms, the way we deliver treatment and care, our pharmaceutical supply chain, and the availability of medicines.

It underlined the challenges associated with chronic disease, leaving millions of European citizens more vulnerable than ever.

However, the crisis has also accelerated innovation, proving that even now, Europe can rebuild itself stronger than before.

It has shown the value of solidarity, European coordination and - most importantly – of overcoming old taboos about what is national and what is European in the area of public health.

It is precisely this new mindset that facilitated the first steps towards a genuine Health Union in Europe. It was the loud and clear calls of our citizens for more Europe in the area of health.

And this is true both for serious cross border threats but also for long-term challenges such as cancer and having more affordable, available and accessible medicines for patients.

We want to better support Member States and increase cooperation in our rapid response. We therefore proposed to increase the responsibilities, powers and resources for ECDC and the EMA.

We will also create a new European Health Emergency Authority called HERA, which will work to prevent and prepare for possible new crises and will focus on therapies, vaccines and technologies.

Only together we can end this pandemic and this is why we have presented the Pharmaceutical Strategy on the 24th of November.

We will be working with innovative companies, small and multinationals, in Europe. For me it was also essential to put patients at the centre of the development and supply of medicines.

With the launch the Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan in the beginning of 2021 as well as with the European health data space, we will continue to build the Health Union.

This is a Union that you need to be part of – and I can assure you that you will be part of. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

All these ambitions need to be financed. Funding is indispensable to deliver on some of these ambitions, particularly in the area of cancer.

The loud and clear calls of our citizens for more Europe in the area of health are also reflected in the EU4Health Programme.

Thanks to our and your tireless efforts, we have achieved a historic result. 5.1 billion euro for the next 7 years is the result of this work. With this money we can and will do so much more for the health of our citizens.

Building capacity and ensuring adequate resources, supplies and facilities, implementing innovative approaches, and successfully reinforcing our preparedness for pandemics – all this is now possible.

The new programme will build on the success stories of the past – identifying best practice, exchanging information and skills, and supporting networks, outreach and capacity building.

By supporting capacity building, the EU4Health programme will take the “Health in all policies” approach forward – enabling EU countries to make more effective use of other European policies and funding opportunities.

This includes the new Recovery and Resilience Facility, which can help Member States plan and invest in health reforms, and pave the way forward from the COVID-19 crisis.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The pandemic has underlined the need to accelerate efforts to strengthen and reform our health systems.

We need to take forward the lessons learned, invest more, and establish a long-term approach to support resilient and sustainable health systems in all Member States, that deliver to all people.

EPHA’s contribution could not be more valuable.

I invite you to support Member States as they implement and monitor the different actions under the EU4Health programme, to help them and us in building a genuine and stronger European Health Union.