Faced with a global health crisis of unprecedented scale, the CoR president called for an EU Health Emergency Mechanism to ensure that the EU is better equipped in future. The call was supported by CoR Conference of Presidents. Although the EU institutions have actively supported the Member States in their fight against COVID-19, more needs to be done – now and in the future – to help local and regional authorities in their health and emergency response.
The opinion would lay down the political and strategic objectives of the new EU Health Emergency Mechanism, reflecting on how to go beyond the existing legal framework to set up the new, more flexible and quicker tool to act faster, more decisively and targeting the most affected regions.
The opinion should provide a political reading of the EU HEM proposal and provide guidance on its strategic implementation.
The overall objective should be to assist immediately affected territories and in the longer term reflect on how to improve the resilience of Europe's cities and regions.
THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS
- proposes to set up an EU health emergency mechanism to coordinate EU action and support to assist national, regional and local healthcare and disaster preparedness structures to respond effectively to health threats and crisis situations, to ensure effective cooperation and coordination on preparedness and response with competent international organisations, to coordinate European distribution of essential medical equipment, to improve the supply of essential medical equipment through joint procurement initiatives and monitor the supply chain for essential products;
- notes that the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the vital importance of European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), and urges the Member States and the Commission to work together to strengthen and develop its role in combating major health scourges;
- calls on the Member States and the European Commission to establish a permanent European Strategic Stockpile as the EU's repository of antibiotics, vaccines, chemical antidotes, antitoxins and other critical medical supplies in order to guarantee the availability of an "emergency reserve" and coordinate prompt distribution and delivery of essential resources across Europe;
- calls for efforts to rapidly acquire key basic substances, increase production of testing kits and other medical devices where there are shortages, and launch the development and production of essential medicines on European soil by promoting research and innovation and creating incentives for manufacturers, in order to reduce the dependency on third countries;
- expresses its strong support for multilateral cooperation to develop safe and effective vaccines, diagnostics and treatment, and for fair funding and distribution of future vaccines and medicines;
- calls for more action to counter the dissemination of misinformation about COVID-19, treatments for it and vaccines against it online and through other channels.