EU Actions towards Building a European Health Union

At the end of 2020, taking stock of some lessons learned during the initial stage of the pandemic, the European Commission launched a package of initiatives aimed at paving the way for the establishment of a a stronger cooperation platform giving the European Union the proper instruments to prevent, prepare for and manage health crises both at the EU and global level.

In the Communication ‘Building a European Health Union: Reinforcing the EU’s resilience for cross-border health threats’ of 11 November 2020, the Commission proposed the first building blocks for a European Health Union. The Communication implements the obligation to ensure high level of human health protection as defined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. It outlines the lessons learnt from the first stage of the pandemic, and advocates the strengthening of existing structures and mechanisms for better EU level protection, prevention, preparedness and response against human health hazards. It recommends a reinforced framework for cross-border cooperation against all health threats in order to better protect lives and the internal market as well as to maintain the highest standards in the protection of human rights and civil liberties. It also strengthens the EU role in international coordination and cooperation to prevent and control cross-border health threats and improve global health security.

The Communication was accompanied by three legislative proposals: an upgrading of Decision 1082/2013/EU on serious cross-border health threats, a strengthening of the mandate of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), and an extension of the mandate of the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

With particular regard to the first proposal, the Commission presented the Proposal for a Regulation on serious cross-border threats that would replace Decision 1082/2013/EU. The proposed regulation introduces a stronger and more comprehensive legal framework for health crisis preparedness and response at EU level and enhances the Union’s guidance in the adoption of common measures at EU level to face future cross-border health threats.