The opinion welcomes the Commission's proposal to establish a dedicated health programme "EU4Health" of EUR 1.7 billion for the upcoming budget period 2021-2027 but regrets that the EUR 7.7 billion of additional funding, as proposed by the Commission as part of the Recovery Plan for Europe, was cut by the European Council;
The opinion highlights the competences of local and regional authorities in the field of health and aims to ensure that the new EU4Health Programme supports their actions in this area;
It insists on the need to strengthen the involvement of local and regional authorities in the governance of health systems, as well as in the definition of priorities and the implementation of the programme, due to their essential role in health, prevention and support;
The opinion recognises the need to devote significant resources at EU level to improving the Union's capacity to prevent, prepare for and respond to health threats/crises, and to strengthen cooperation between the Member States in this respect. At the same time, it is important not to deprioritise the EU's health promotion and disease prevention efforts.
The proposed list of actions for the EU4Health programme should cover key areas such as common health challenges.
Overall, the most important impact of the opinion is the size of the EU envelope, asigned to the EU4Health budget. The original Commission's proposal (over 10bl€) was subsequently reduced by the Council to 1.7 bln€. Thanks to a clear position of the European Parliament, supported by the Committee of the Regions, the final budget amounts to 5.1bln€ - three times more than Member States wanted.
The final text also includes a notion (under activities provided for by article 4) of "organisation of voluntary stress tests of national healthcare systems", as suggested by the CoR opinion.
Likewise, the CoR call for an increase (from 25 to 30%) of the programme contribution to mainstreaming "climate action in the Union's policies" is in the final text of the regulation.
THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS:
- calls for the health sector to contribute to the European Pillar of Social Rights and notes that the fight against health inequalities is a major goal and an effective means of promoting health security and health systems;
- notes that the preparation and implementation of the measures to respond to the COVID-19 crisis should be done in coordination with the relevant national, regional and local authorities competent in the field of public health;
- emphasises that the EU4Health programme must not only focus on crisis management, but should contribute through the post-COVID-19 recovery steps to significantly improving the health of the EU's population, by strengthening the resilience of health systems, promoting innovation in the health sector, and including health prevention and promotion as sustainable development tools;
- recalls that the programme should organise the coordination and funding of stress tests in the Member States in order to identify weaknesses and to assess their ability to respond to pandemics;
- highlights the fact that the budget of EUR 1.7 billion, set by the European Council of 20 July 2020, will not be sufficient; The financial envelope for the period 2021-27 shall be EUR 9 370 000 000;
- insists on the need to strengthen the involvement of local and regional authorities in the governance of health systems, as well as in the definition of priorities and the implementation of the programme, due to their essential role in health, prevention and support.