People are our social capital, our wealth. People living in better health contribute better to the labour market, making Europe more competitive
- Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis -
First Citizens' Dialogue in Lithuania takes place in Kaunas
On 18 March, the Kaunas University of Medicine hosted a Citizens' Dialogue with Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis. Commissioner Andriukaitis was joined on stage by Professor Vilius Grabauskas, Medical Academy Chancellor of the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences. During the lively discussion, various aspects of health and public health care were debated. The main issues discussed included the prevention of chronic diseases, fighting tobacco, alcohol and drug addiction, promoting a healthier lifestyle including among young people, food standards in TTIP, the health status of refugees, and calls for better harmonisation of certain health-related areas, such as vaccination.
Commissioner Andriukaitis kicked-off the Citizens' Dialogue in Kaunas by calling for the participation of everyone in protecting the health of our society. He called for urgent action. "People are our social capital, our wealth. People living in better health contribute better to the labour market, making Europe more competitive."
Professor Vilius Grabauskas confirmed that health systems should be organised around prevention, protection and promotion. "Many countries spend a lot of money on diagnostics and treatment to address the consequences, but this is not effective" he stressed.
Responding to questions on alcohol regulation, the Commissioner emphasised that fighting alcohol abuse requires a comprehensive approach, including instruments such as advertising, restriction of sales, excise duties, education, etc. These are mostly under the responsibility of Member States and to be effective require a 'Health in all policy sectors' approach.
The Commission will provide recommendations, but the decision belongs to the competence of the Member States which will need to act.
In his answer to questions regarding TTIP, and more particularly products containing GMOs and hormones, Commissioner Andriukaitis explained that TTIP cannot and will not in any way change our high standards. If US companies would like to sell products containing GMOs, they will have to label it clearly. In addition, all our bans and prohibitions regarding food will remain in effect. Moreover, the EU is a very strong competitor in US markets.
Regarding the fears that relocated refugees may be spreading various contagious diseases, the Commissioner underlined that such stories are spread without there being any evidence. He pointed out that the risk of spreading such diseases is in fact very small. At the same time, the European Commission continuously monitors and analyses the situation on the ground.
The event in Kaunas was part of a series of Citizens' Dialogues that involve the whole European Commission and take place in all EU Member States.