by Martin Seychell, Deputy Director General for Health, Directorate General Health and Food Safety, European Commission
Over the last 50 years the European Union has grown from 6 to 28 Member States and the accession process continues today with 5 candidate and 2 potential candidate countries: 500+ million EU citizens with many more knocking on the door.
In DG Health and Food Safety, we work to make Europe a healthier, safer place, where all these citizens can be confident that their health and wellbeing is both promoted and protected and where measures are taken to prevent diseases and increase healthy life years. Healthy populations with equitable access to quality and sustainable healthcare are decisive factors for economic growth.
During the accession process, DG Health and Food Safety works with DG Enlargement together with those countries to facilitate the reforms of their legislation, administrations, and health systems to ensure a gradual transition to implement EU health legislation, guidelines, and best practices.
The Commission supports this process by holding regular dialogues, providing technical assistance and offering its know-how on organising and running sustainable health systems. These systems must be able to respond to serious cross-border health threats, like infectious diseases, that freely cross borders. At the time of accession, it will be essential for new Member States to have effective disease-containing and outbreak-management mechanisms in place and to participate in and report to the European Surveillance System as well as EU communicable diseases networks such as the Early Warning and Response System. It is in the interest of everybody's health and wellbeing that candidate countries build up their capacity now rather than waiting until the moment of accession.
This work of the European Union mainly goes unseen but is an important investment for the future and already now provides benefits and protects the health of our citizens.