European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides, speaking to PACE today, outlined an EU programme to make Europe “healthier, more inclusive, more resilient and more sustainable”, stressing that collaboration and solidarity were the keys to overcoming future challenges.
The Commissioner, a former President and leading member of PACE, began by saying that her presence in the Assembly felt like “coming home”. Among other things, she highlighted the Assembly’s forthcoming debate on the right to a safe, healthy and sustainable environment: “I am sure that the discussions you will have tomorrow will reflect the action we need to be taking together, today. The health of our planet and the health of our citizens is a continuum – something I will never tire of repeating. Plant health, animal health and human health are inseparable.”
Ms Kyriakides reviewed the EU’s action to bring vaccines to all Europeans and its plans for future health resilience. Recalling that “no-one is safe until we are all safe”, she called for universal and fair access to COVID-19 vaccines and treatments as “both a top priority and a moral imperative”. She outlined the EU’s efforts to work with partner countries, export vaccines abroad, and spearhead the global vaccine rollout via the COVAX initiative.
She praised the work of the Council of Europe – and the Assembly in particular – in immediately responding to the immense challenges of the pandemic, and urged it to put its moral authority behind the renewed effort to create a robust global health architecture. She also called for reform and strengthening of the World Health Organization (WHO) to play its critical lead role in making the world safer against future pandemics.
To handle future pandemics, the EU wanted to press ahead with four key proposals, Ms Kyriakides said – including a plan for a new European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA), as well as action to strengthen the EU’s existing health bodies and address serious cross-border health threats.
She also outlined her team’s work on Europe’s “Beating Cancer Plan”, built around coordination with EU member states and other partnerships, to tackle the COVID-related backlog in treatment, care and prevention: “Together, we will change the cancer realities.”
The Commissioner concluded: “Today as I stand before you, I know we all share the same vision and determination, to work towards building a better future, a future in health that will leave no one behind.”