The European Committee of the Regions has called for the European Union to create a "vulnerability scoreboard" as part of efforts to increase the resilience of regions.
Recent crises demonstrate that health is not only an internal policy but an important element of Europe's geopolitical security. Achieving strategic autonomy in health means being able to protect its citizens against all types of disasters, to foresight and analyse threats and to act swiftly when a crisis arises.
The recommendation is contained in an opinion on Health Emergency Response Authority adopted by the CoR at its plenary session on 27 April 2022.
The opinion was drafted by Christophe Clergeau (FR/PES), member of the Pays de la Loire Regional Council. Mr Clergeau said: "Addressing health and environmental crises is an issue of solidarity for the European Union. The creation of HERA is a positive initiative of the Commission. But we need to go further, by fighting inequalities and ensuring that all regions and populations are also accompanied in crises. We also need to change European rules to produce in Europe the medicines and medical countermeasures we need to ensure our sovereignty."
In the first weeks of the pandemic, the European Committee of the Regions called on the European Commission and the Member States to establish a European Health Mechanism – the idea later transformed into the HERA. Although the debate on the establishment of HERA is taking place in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic, it is being established with a broader aim relating to all types of risk to human health, large-scale and/or cross-border, the phases of both crisis preparedness and management and the challenges of prevention and resilience of societies and areas.
The opinion argues that the scope of the action entrusted to HERA is very broad. The aim is to tackle threats to human health, whether from pandemics or of environmental, human, bacteriological, nuclear, terrorist or other origin. Given these huge challenges, the European Committee of the Regions is concerned about HERA's ability to succeed in its tasks and considers that the resources entrusted to it are likely to prove insufficient.
Another question mark, as highlighted by the rapporteur, is the size of the budget: €6 billion planned for the period 2022-2027 and how it is to be deployed.
Local and regional authorities estimate that democratic oversight insufficient. It is strictly limited to the Commission and the Member States, confining the European Parliament to an observer role and excluding all stakeholders, cities and regions as well as civil-society players from HERA's permanent bodies.
Rapporteur Clergeau stressed that there is no European resilience without the resilience of the regions, which have competences in the health field (health systems are more or less decentralised in two-thirds of the EU's Member States). In order to strengthen it, it is necessary to know where the weak links are, and for this purpose proposes the creation of a "vulnerability scoreboard".
The opinion considers that current industrial policy does not have adequate instruments and proposes that, in the health field, solutions such as a "European Chips Act" be introduced to give the EU autonomy in matters of active pharmaceutical ingredients, pharmaceutical production or the manufacture of safety devices and essential equipment (such as masks, respirators, etc.). In particular, it calls for national and European strategic stocks to be built up and renewed wherever possible with goods produced in Europe.
The Committee of the Regions therefore calls for the creation of a scientific council for HERA, which is pluralist and involves stakeholders, to establish scientific priorities and a roadmap would guide Horizon investments.
The CoR is in favour of extending EU competence on health policy, arguing that the EU treaty is too restrictive to tackle large-scale problems, and wants health ministers to meet monthly, rather than twice a year at the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO).
COVID-19: CoR President calls for an EU Health Emergency Mechanism to support regions and cities
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