Following Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn’s invitation, the Council of the European Union met in its Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO) configuration.
Together with the European Parliament, this Council issues legislation on health topics in order to improve the healthcare of EU citizens and currently, in particular, the EU’s crisis response capabilities. Due to the ongoing pandemic, the event took place in form of a videoconference and not, as was planned, as an in-person event in Brussels.
The defining theme of the German Presidency of the Council of the European Union is the increased European cooperation to control the COVID-19 pandemic in the long term. EU health ministers discussed a proposal from the Presidency for Council conclusions on “lessons learned in health from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Additional items on the agenda were the current pandemic situation in the EU and the European Commission’s package for Building a European Health Union that was released on 11 November, 2020. It contains two legislative proposals to extend the mandates of the EU health agencies, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA), as well as a legislative proposal on pandemic preparedness. This comprehensive package is to be publicly discussed between member states and the European Commission. EPSCO’s Council conclusions and the European Commission’s legislative proposals represent important steps on the path toward better cooperation in European crisis management.
In a public session, Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn also provided information on the current state of the deliberations on the proposed Regulation on Health Technology Assessment (HTA) and the state of play of the deliberations on the new EU funding programme, EU4Health.
In addition, EU health ministers and the European Commission exchanged views on the Commission’s announced EU Pharmaceutical Strategy. The European Commission reported on the Europe's Beating Cancer Plan and the state of implementation of the Medical Devices Regulation (MDR) and In-vitro Diagnostics Regulation (IVDR). Finally, after a stocktake from the German Council Presidency in the field of health, Portugal presented its working programme on health for the upcoming Portuguese EU Council Presidency starting in January 2021.