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Procedure : 2011/2911(RSP)
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Texts tabled :

B7-0148/2012

Debates :

PV 13/03/2012 - 16
CRE 13/03/2012 - 16

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PV 14/03/2012 - 9.9
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P7_TA(2012)0082

Debates
Tuesday, 13 March 2012 - Strasbourg OJ edition

16. Addressing the EU diabetes epidemic (debate)
Video of the speeches
PV
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  President. – The next item is the Council and Commission statements on addressing the EU diabetes epidemic.

 
  
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  Nicolai Wammen, President-in-Office of the Council. – Mr President, honourable Members of the European Parliament, Commissioner, I am grateful to this Parliament for taking the initiative in organising this debate and in drawing attention to this important issue.

I wish today to thank in particular the co-chairs, Ms Schaldemose, Baroness Ludford, Mr Busuttil and Ms Matias for their leadership and, of course, the members of Parliament’s working group on diabetes, which sponsored the motion for a resolution before you. They continue to work tirelessly to raise the profile of the effects of diabetes on the health of citizens across the European Union.

Throughout Europe, chronic diseases in general pose an enormous challenge to patients and their relatives and society at large. This calls for a new and coordinated approach and increased cooperation. The biggest challenge in this context arises from the fact that we live longer and do not live healthily enough. This means that ever more Europeans develop diabetes and other chronic diseases.

The implications are obvious: mounting pressure on our health sector and a situation where fewer young people are entering the labour market to pay for rising public costs.

Diabetes is one of the four most common chronic diseases. At present, around 30 million people in the European Union are diagnosed with diabetes. This figure is expected to rise to around 40 million by around 2030. Around 10% of the EU Member States’ health care budget is spent on the direct treatment of diabetes. This amounts to about EUR 80 billion, which does not even include the cost of treating associated illnesses or complications.

At present, diabetes can be neither reversed nor cured. Current therapies do not prevent the progression of the disease. Equally, they cannot eliminate the threat of long-term complications. The growing burden of diabetes must therefore be addressed through prevention, early detection, effective management, education and research.

Prevention can be very effective. According to the World Health Organisation, Type 2 diabetes – which represents between 85 and 95% of diabetes cases – can be prevented by basic changes in lifestyle, including healthy diet and regular physical activity.

What can be done within the EU to face up to this challenge? Health issues are, first and foremost, a matter for Member States. The European Union has only limited competence in this area, but that clearly does not mean that we are inactive. In December 2010, the Council launched a reflection process on the issue of chronic diseases. It invited Member States and the Commission to identify options to optimise the response to chronic diseases and spur cooperation among Member States. This process is carried out in close cooperation with the relevant stakeholders and will result in a reflection paper. Work is ongoing and is being managed at senior level within the appropriate Council bodies. It is expected to be finalised next year.

The Danish Presidency is fully supportive of this process and will use its time in office to advance it as much as possible. In fact, chronic disease is one of the main priorities of the Danish Presidency in the field of health. It will be on the agenda of the informal meeting of health ministers in Horsens in Denmark this April, where the question of patient empowerment will be in focus. Patient empowerment is also the topic of a conference organised under the Danish Presidency, which will take place on 11 and 12 April in Copenhagen.

I am also pleased to announce that the European Diabetes Leadership Forum will take place on 25 and 26 April this year. A wide range of stakeholders, including politicians, government officials, health NGOs, health care professionals and business organisations, will be represented at that forum, and the Danish Presidency is proud to support it. The Presidency is convinced that these events will not only bring together experts across a range of fields; they will also support the reflection process on chronic diseases under way in the Council.

Considerable efforts are under way to address the challenges of chronic diseases, including diabetes. The work in the Council is one of many strands of work which are contributing to these efforts – but more could and should be done. Our discussion this afternoon, and the resolution which you will vote on tomorrow, will help increase awareness of this challenge to our collective health.

I therefore look forward to hearing your views on this issue and to reporting back to the Council.

 
  
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  Andris Piebalgs, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, I would like to thank the Parliament for its commitment to improving the lives of people with diabetes. The European Commission shares your concern. Diabetes translates to great suffering for over 32 million Europeans and their families.

The European Commission believes we need to attack the root causes of diabetes further. As such, the European Commission fully endorses your call to Member States to develop strategies on diet and exercise to prevent Type 2 diabetes, as expressed in your resolution.

We know that not all diabetes is preventable, but when it comes to Type 2 diabetes, we do know what the main causes are: being overweight, obesity and a lack of physical activity. The rate of obesity has more than doubled over the past 20 years. More than half of adult Europeans are overweight or obese. One in four European children aged six to nine are already overweight and, as such, at greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. This is why the focus of Commission action to address diabetes is to tackle its main causes: being overweight, obesity and the lack of physical activity.

It was in this spirit that, back in 2007, the Commission developed a strategy on nutrition and physical activity to support national efforts to prevent obesity. The strategy works first by fostering an exchange of experiences amongst Member States, encouraging joint approaches and coordinated actions. This includes joint food reformulation approaches, for example, for key nutrients such as salt.

Second, it mobilises partners across society to take action, through the EU Platform for Action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health, which, very importantly, also includes diabetes organisations.

In this framework, the Commission encourages action by food producers, media and advertisers on food reformulation and commercial communication standards.

Third, it mobilises other policies towards this cause. I will give you some examples. Through the EU research policy, the Commission has co-funded research on diabetes and obesity, worth EUR 340 million in the sixth and seventh framework programmes for research. Since 2007, over EUR 207 million has been devoted to diabetes and obesity research.

We further support research and innovation to address diet-related diseases more generally, with the Joint Programming Initiative ‘A Healthy Diet for a Healthy Life’. As such, we welcome your resolution’s call for coordination of diabetes research across the European Union.

Through the EU agriculture policy, the Commission brings fruits and vegetables to millions of school children every year via the School Fruit Scheme. Through the EU education policy, the Commission is also supporting physical activity with initiatives such as the EU guidelines for physical activity. Finally – and it is important to mention this – in the field of audiovisual media services, the Commission seeks to reduce the pressure of food marketing and advertising on children.

In addition, the Commission has also financed action through the health programme to support Member States’ responses to diabetes prevention and care and to improve European capacity for monitoring the diabetes epidemic. Special attention is given to juvenile diabetes and factors related to childhood.

The Commission is persuaded that the EU framework programme for research and also the health programme contribute to research breakthroughs in the prevention and treatment of diabetes and in better understanding the interaction of diabetes with other diseases.

Your resolution further calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure adequate follow up of the UN summit on non-communicable diseases. In this regard, I would like to inform you that the Commission has already launched a reflection process, together with Member States and stakeholders, to identify areas for added-value action at EU level.

I trust you will recognise the Commission’s commitment to addressing the diabetes epidemic and to supporting Member States in their efforts to prevent and manage diabetes. The Commission will carefully study your resolution and how to accommodate your request for further action.

The Commission agrees with the European Parliament about the need to do more on diabetes: for example, to prevent diabetes, in particular, amongst children and adolescents; to support patients, and enable them to live a fulfilling life; and to offer the best available diagnosis and treatment options to people affected, to minimise complications and the risk of associated diseases.

This being said, as you know, the Commission believes that it can provide most added value by focusing work on the challenges and causes common to many chronic diseases such as obesity, rather than focusing on the individual diseases one by one.

By addressing obesity, we address diabetes and many other chronic diseases at the same time. This is why the European Commission favours a horizontal holistic approach instead of specific strategies for individual diseases. It is in this spirit that the Commission takes note of the fact that the resolution calls on the Commission to develop and implement a dedicated EU diabetes strategy and to monitor Member State action in this area.

Finally, let me assure you that by addressing the risk factors, developing the evidence base and by supporting Member States, the Commission can, and will, continue to play its full role in addressing diabetes.

 
  
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  Simon Busuttil, on behalf of the PPE Group. (MT) Mr President, I am very pleased that we are holding this debate, since we have been working for two and a half years to hold this debate in this hall and obtain this resolution. This satisfaction is also shared by my colleagues who work on this subject, and who are present here today. As has been stated, 32 million citizens suffer from diabetes; apart from this, another 32 million people suffer from hyperglycaemia and risk suffering serious problems during their lives if they develop diabetes. Allow me to add that up to 50% of those who suffer from diabetes are not even aware of their condition. I am not a doctor, but there is one thing that is very clear to me: we are facing a very serious problem. And it is for this reason that we are meeting here today to discuss the problems posed by diabetes, which is affecting the lives of millions of citizens. It is our duty to work together to find effective solutions to these problems.

It has often been said that the potential financial burden which tackling such a problem would involve would be too hefty, but I am of the opinion that this argument is not valid in the context of diabetes. Why? If we control diabetes today, we will be saving on expenses in the future. Therefore, it is good that the Danish Presidency has listed this subject as one of its priorities, and I hereby call on the Commission to do more, first and foremost, by creating a strategy to combat diabetes, and also by encouraging the Member States to create national strategies in this regard.

 
  
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  Christel Schaldemose, on behalf of the S&D Group.(DA) Mr President, I would like to thank the Commissioner and Mr Wammen for their positive contributions and for their support for the fact that we really must take more action than we are currently doing when it comes to diabetes.

I would just like to reiterate a few figures: 32 million EU citizens already have diabetes today and a further 32 million have the early stages of diabetes. The majority of them have Type 2 diabetes. What is interesting – and it has actually already been said – is the fact that we are, in fact, able to prevent Type 2 diabetes. I am therefore extremely pleased to have your support for the need for us to do more.

Of course, it is also a question of getting to grips with the causes of diabetes, including obesity. A great deal more research can be done into the causes and also into how we can get citizens to lead healthier lives. However, I also believe that the Commission can do more than that. We can also ensure that we have common standards for how we collect data on the status of the situation with diabetes and the other types of diseases. This sort of data collection is, in fact, necessary in order for us to see whether any progress is actually being made in these areas, in which we are now implementing a large number of political initiatives.

With regard to the Member States, Mr Wammen, I would like to say that I am pleased to hear your assurance that the Council will give its attention to this matter, but one example of something important that I believe can be done in the Member States is to update the national action plans for diabetes. After all, that will help us to focus on what we should do for citizens at a national level.

I would therefore like to thank you for your assurance and for the fact that you will be involved in getting something done for European citizens.

 
  
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  Sarah Ludford, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, the diabetes time bomb has stopped ticking and has actually exploded, so I am delighted that the Danish Presidency – as well as Parliament (where we also have Danish influence) – are supportive of a specific focus on diabetes. The fact that it accounts for 10% of our health care costs is reason enough. While the onset of Type 1 diabetes in children and teenagers is quite sudden, Type 2 diabetes is often not diagnosed until it has been present for some years. This leads to complications such as blindness and kidney and heart disease, which are both devastating and expensive and account for a lot of those costs. As the Commissioner noted, not all diabetes is preventable, and I would specifically mention those 10 to 15% who have Type 1. Even tiny babies are getting it. An exclusively horizontal approach does tend to ignore Type 1.

There seem to be two main explanations for the lack of urgency to date on diabetes. One is, I think, the perception that people get along with it OK: they just have to be a bit careful about what they eat, and they do not die from it. In fact, some do die directly from diabetes, but many more die early from the devastating side-effects that I have just mentioned. I think a second reason for inaction is prejudice – the perception that it is only about a lazy lifestyle. Again, I think an exclusively horizontal approach reinforces that.

The Commission promised only to reflect. I think we are going to need a lot more, and we need to push the Commission firmly to actually develop a diabetes strategy in the form of an EU Council recommendation. I do not accept that the horizontal approach and the specific focus are mutually exclusive.

 
  
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  Frieda Brepoels, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. (NL) Mr President, the European Parliament indicated in a resolution as early as 15 September 2011, in the run-up to the UN summit on non-communicable diseases, that it is entirely in Europe’s interests to adopt a comprehensive approach and, moreover, to contribute additional input to the policies of competent authorities in Member States.

In October 2010, we also organised a joint meeting in the European Parliament of the Diabetes Working Group, the MEP Heart Group, Members against Cancer (MAC) and the MEP Group for Kidney Health, of which I am chair, which also stressed the importance of coordinated action. Prevention is essential and, indeed, also possible, because the risk factors for all these diseases are already known.

With that in mind, I therefore somewhat regret the fact that members here seem to have abandoned that joint approach to a certain extent and prepared a resolution dealing with diabetes alone. The added value of last year’s resolution escapes me somewhat, because other diseases which are also non-communicable, such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer and respiratory diseases, have been disregarded to some extent. However, I have no problems, obviously, with the contents of the resolution and we will therefore support it.

 
  
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  Marisa Matias, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group.(PT) Mr President, as has already been mentioned, diabetes affects more than 30 million people in Europe. Those are the figures of an epidemic, in fact. That is why I believe there is also justification for a specific resolution on diabetes; all the more so because this is the first time that Parliament has addressed this issue. This is the result of a collective effort; an effort that does not cancel out the work done until now on chronic illnesses: on the contrary, it reinforces it and reinforces this capacity that we have for collective intervention.

We have around 325 000 deaths per year associated with diabetes because we know that diabetes is the principal cause of, for example, heart attacks, blindness, amputations and failures of vital organs. In my opinion, we have two choices in the face of these figures. The first is to say that it is not that serious; that we can get on alright with this and that each government should look out for itself. The second is to say that the lack of a European strategy in this area is part of the problem. I believe we have much to do in this regard. We also have much to do on early diagnosis, on coordination and on investment in research. That is why this resolution represents a first step in working together to this end.

 
  
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  Zofija Mazej Kukovič (PPE).(SL) Mr President, I welcome this resolution and welcome the priority given to it by the Danish Presidency.

Based on my own past experience of the Presidency of the EU Council, I would say this is an extremely positive approach, since awareness of this problem really does stretch across the whole of Europe.

Awareness not only of the integrated management of diseases, but also of prevention, since it is actually extremely important that citizens are aware of what they can do early on and, of course, what they can do later, when the disease develops. What this change to their way of life means. Not just taking medication, but actually changing their lifestyle.

This is also an opportunity for civil associations, which are especially strong in this area, to also play a role in raising awareness among citizens, in cooperation with the experts, of course. This is an opportunity for politicians and experts to find their synergy together with responsible and disciplined individuals.

 
  
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  Andrés Perelló Rodríguez (S&D).(ES) Mr President, the climate of economic crisis and budgetary cuts affects public health care and leaves research centres without funding. This is the case with the Prince Felipe centre, which specialises in diabetes and is located in the autonomous region in which I live, and this resolution is very welcome, it is very appropriate.

We need a single European strategy for diabetes and we need a recommendation from the Council telling States that they should step up research, even on stem cells, that they should coordinate their results to make the best use of them, and that they should establish programmes for healthy eating and lifestyle habits. In summary, we must put people’s health before anything else and, in this case, research, coordinate and develop national programmes that are coordinated by the Commission to obtain data about diabetes and, in that way, protect the lives of Europeans, and ensure their quality of life.

If we devote more funds to this, maybe some will take a little longer to recover, but those who currently have problems will definitely have a better quality of life and we, as States, as a Council and as a Commission, will be fulfilling one of our obligations, which is to watch over the health of our citizens.

 
  
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  Radvilė Morkūnaitė-Mikulėnienė (PPE) . – (LT) Mr President, today, we are discussing an important issue. The United Nations General Assembly has confirmed that diabetes is one of the four major non-communicable diseases in the world. We can say that it is a global problem and already an epidemic. The figures are really shocking: 33 million people with diabetes in the European Union – 10% of the entire population. At least another 32 million are at risk of developing diabetes. Diabetes causes significant losses not just in terms of health deterioration but the high costs of treatment. In many Member States, the cost of treating diabetes represents more than 10% of health care spending. It is also a major burden for people with diabetes themselves. It is therefore essential to take and implement effective action immediately with regard to European Union and Member State measures to address diabetes. So far, little more than half of all Member States have appropriate strategies: first steps, public education and information on the risk factors; the introduction of health, prevention and screening programmes. There must be a focused and coordinated operation covering the efforts of institutions developing health policy, the European Union’s scientific potential and non-governmental organisations. I congratulate the principal rapporteur, Simon Busuttil, and hope that following the adoption of the resolution with really comprehensive proposals, we will be able to combat diabetes in the European Union more effectively.

 
  
 

Catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Anna Záborská (PPE). (SK) Mr President, the proposed resolution calls for the coordination of procedures at the level of the Member States and of the European Union, but only indirectly mentions the responsibility of the individual. We do not have a mandate to release citizens from this responsibility, but the degree of solidarity in public health insurance systems should reflect demonstrably harmful lifestyle choices. Similarly, we must respect the decisions of Member States, because health care is within their remit. The financial possibilities open to the Member States vary, so, for example, Slovakia today cannot afford the levels of funding for the treatment of diabetes enjoyed by the countries of old Europe. I therefore agree with the recommendations in the Joint Declaration on enhancing the exchange of information and best practices. This applies especially to Type 2 diabetes.

 
  
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  Judith A. Merkies (S&D). (NL) Mr President, thank you for seeing to it that this important topic is on today’s agenda. I would like to highlight a fact that you already know: that about one in four people with diabetes do not actually know that they have the disease. In the Netherlands, approximately 1 million people out of a total population of 16 million have diabetes and a quarter of them do not know it yet.

It is therefore, as you say, extremely important to work on prevention, on the many things that people can do at home to reduce their risk. To that end, we need a lot of innovation and a lot of high-tech advances. It is now, at last, possible to use your smartphone to keep track of your diabetes. In other words, you can use it to find out what kind of medication you need. It is possible that, in the future, people will also be able to receive better long-distance care and will find it easier to do a test at home to find out whether or not they have diabetes.

There are, therefore, opportunities for an innovative and high-tech approach and that ought to be included in the active and healthy ageing strategy and, in particular, in the digital agenda. In addition, it is important that we also work on making these products more accessible to other countries because, at present, you could hardly describe free movement of medical innovations as one of our strengths. We could be cleverer and more efficient in our provision of care, as well as doing it more cheaply, and we also need more effective support for people who do not yet know that they have diabetes.

 
  
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  Cristian Silviu Buşoi (ALDE) . – (RO) Mr President, if we analyse closely the figures on the incidence of diabetes among the population of the European Union, whether it be Type 1 or Type 2, it is obvious that serious efforts need to be made to combat this disease. I, too, wish to urge prevention, both because prevention is best in terms of cost efficiency and because, unfortunately, in the case of diabetes, as with other chronic diseases, we are currently focusing more on treatment and less on prevention. Promoting a healthy lifestyle and combating risk factors are vital measures for tackling this disease.

In addition, the fact that we are now debating the Horizon 2020 research programme provides an excellent opportunity for improving the system, ensuring better coordination of the research being conducted into diabetes and for guaranteeing the necessary funding and infrastructure. We need a European strategy focusing on prevention, early and effective diagnosis, management of this disease, informing the public and carrying out relevant research.

 
  
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  Georgios Papanikolaou (PPE).(EL) Mr President, I wish to speak about child diabetes, an issue which I have an additional personal reason for monitoring very closely: eighteen months ago, my niece, an only child now six years old, was diagnosed as having Type 1 diabetes.

I will never forget her parents’ initial efforts; I will never forget her father’s efforts to try and agree with and explain to his insurance fund that it should cover the special equipment needed by the child to measure her blood sugar, because it had not been included in the agreed arrangement.

I shall never forget that, when they took the child to the playschool which had accepted her after the diagnosis and on the doctor’s advice, some people tried to convince the parents that the child start school later, so that she could, in their words, stabilise.

What I want to say is that there is still a great deal of ignorance about these issues in modern Europe even today. There are prejudices and misunderstandings that ultimately result in discrimination which, as we all know full well, is not allowed. We therefore need to make very serious and intense efforts in the information sector.

Children suffering from child diabetes will grow up, like all children, will have families of their own, like all children, and will live happily like all children.

 
  
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  Jaroslav Paška (EFD). (SK) Mr President, the growing epidemic of diabetes is a serious problem in civilised society, and the EU really cannot ignore its increased incidence. More than 90% of cases concern Type 2 diabetes, in which the loss of ability to utilise glucose is due to poor diet and physical inactivity. This disease, which, until recently, was mostly prevalent in adults, is now also increasing significantly among children.

As we cannot yet cure diabetes and the disease will have an increasingly detrimental impact on the patient’s life up to the time of death, our actions must be oriented to effective prevention, which entails changing harmful eating habits and increasing people’s physical activity. By levying special charges for the consumption of health-threatening products, such as tobacco and alcohol, for example, we could contribute to greater consumer orientation towards healthy, natural food products. We could then use the funds raised to encourage people to undertake regular, light sport for fitness purposes.

There are certainly other options for bringing about positive changes to current habits, but the Commission must know how to work with them creatively and then to introduce them into people’s lives effectively.

 
  
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  Miroslav Mikolášik (PPE). (SK) Mr President, the incidence of diabetes in EU Member States is growing ever greater, affecting the lives of approximately 32 million people, which represents nearly 10% of the European population. Diabetes is also the cause of fully 325 000 deaths in the EU. Type 2 diabetes results in a decreased life expectancy of five to 10 years, and Type 1 diabetes, of one to about 20 years. By 2025, the number of people suffering from diabetes will increase by a further 16%.

The costs involved in treating EU citizens suffering from diabetes account, on average, for 10-18.5% of the total health expenditure in a given country. We need coordination here at European level, even though health care certainly comes under the sovereignty of each country and each country should have its own action plan. We should therefore support the fight against obesity and promote healthy lifestyles.

 
  
 

End of the catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Andris Piebalgs, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, Baroness Ludford and Mr Papanikolaou also rightly mentioned Type 1 diabetes, which raises a couple of related issues. The first is early identification, because this allows treatment to start as early as possible.

The issue of early diagnosis, as well as the issues that Mr Papanikolaou mentioned, could be addressed within the reflection process on chronic diseases. Certainly, training for medical doctors to ensure effective early diagnosis across the EU is crucial.

With regard to Type 2 diabetes, I understand the pressure to develop a disease-by-disease strategy, but I believe that a Commission strategy on nutrition-, weight- and obesity-related health issues is still very relevant in terms of supporting national strategies in this area.

This was a very good debate, and the Commission will definitely continue to play its part in fighting diabetes.

 
  
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  Sarah Ludford (ALDE). – Mr President, I just wanted to point out that I am afraid the Commissioner misunderstood Mr Papanikolaou – if I may take his name in vain – because he was talking about something I am associated with, Type 1 diabetes.

For a child at school, the question has nothing to do with the general issues of chronic diseases. It is about whether a school is equipped to deal with the specific demands of a child with diabetes, which involve insulin injections, blood sugar monitoring and so on. I think bringing chronic diseases into that situation shows a complete misunderstanding of the specific demands of diabetes – and particularly Type 1 diabetes – and children.

 
  
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  Andris Piebalgs, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, as I understood it, it was Type 1 diabetes, but that does not exclude that in general, we should really increase awareness of it, so I take the point fully.

 
  
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  Nicolai Wammen, President-in-Office of the Council. (DA) Mr President, Commissioner, honourable Members, thank you for an important and – I agree – excellent debate here today. It is absolutely clear that we need to focus on diabetes and other chronic diseases in the Member States, in the Commission and, of course, also here in the European Parliament. I would also like to thank Mr Busuttil, Baroness Ludford, Ms Kukovič and Ms Schaldemose for acknowledging the Danish Presidency’s work in this area. I am pleased to be able to say that it is the current Trio Presidency of Poland, Denmark and Cyprus that has placed the focus on this problem in particular. During the Danish Presidency, we have chosen to make chronic diseases a particular priority area, with diabetes as a model disease, and my presence here today on behalf of the Danish Government is also an expression of this commitment.

I would therefore like to thank the European Parliament for the opportunity for us to work together to find solutions for the many people who are affected by this disease. Together with the Commission, Parliament and the Member States, we can provide a better quality of life for the many people who are currently affected by diabetes, and we can work together to prevent millions of Europeans and their families from suffering from this disease in the future. I would therefore also like to say that this is an incredibly important debate, which will carry on after today, and I can assure you that, right through to the end of our term of office and in cooperation with future Presidencies, the Danish Presidency will do its utmost to keep this important subject on the European agenda. I wish Parliament, the Commission and the Member States well in their work and I look forward to us tackling this task together for the benefit of millions of European citizens in all of our Member States.

 
  
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  President. – I have received four motions for resolutions tabled in accordance with Rule 115(5) of the Rules of Procedure.

The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Wednesday, 14 March, at 12.00.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  Anneli Jäätteenmäki (ALDE), in writing. (FI) Health is like trust. We often only understand how precious it is when we have lost it. Diabetes is one of the commonest non-communicable diseases. It affects more than 32 million EU citizens, which is to say, almost 10% of the Union’s entire population. Diabetes affects quality of life. It also leads to other diseases and raises the mortality rate.

We need to combat diabetes and other diseases that affect the population. We need action at national, but also at European, level. At present, just 16 EU countries have a national action programme to prevent diabetes. The other 11 countries need to produce one as soon as possible. Merely a desire to eat and live healthily is not always enough. People also need information on healthy lifestyles. In this way, Type 2 diabetes, in particular, can be prevented. More research is needed to recognise the risk factors associated with Type 1 diabetes – hereditary factors, for example. Finally, I would like to say that we decision makers should also have the courage to take decisions that support healthy choices.

 
  
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  Elżbieta Katarzyna Łukacijewska (PPE), in writing. (PL) In recent years, an increase in the incidence of diabetes has been noted. The problem affects a growing number of people and, in the European Union, over 32 million people suffer from the disease. These figures are disturbing, and therefore I think that an EU strategy on diabetes, including its prevention, diagnosis and management, as well as education and research, needs to be implemented as soon as possible. According to statistics, by 2025, around 4 million people in Poland will be diabetic. It is therefore clear how important it is for Member States to develop and implement national programmes to prevent diabetes, because this disease is one of the most significant burdens on public health and health care, not only medically, but also socially and economically.

 
  
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  Sirpa Pietikäinen (PPE), in writing. (FI) I would like to highlight the importance of the resolution in addressing the EU diabetes epidemic in the context of the European health agenda. Diabetes affects more than 32 million EU citizens, or almost 10% of the Union’s entire population. Diabetes is one of the non-communicable diseases responsible for 87% of deaths in the European Union.

Type 2 diabetes is a preventable illness. It is the practice at present, however, to begin to treat it at a fairly late stage, and this has serious effects on health. Early diagnosis should be the priority in national diabetes programmes, so that treatment can be started in the disease’s early stages. In addition, the Commission should initiate measures to establish a Europe-wide diabetes strategy.

Last month, the UN General Assembly adopted a declaration on non-communicable diseases. It serves as a reminder to decision makers around the world of the significance of chronic diseases for their health policy agenda. The main guidelines contained in the declaration relate to more advice and guidance, economic policy instruments, the robust promotion of healthy food, and access to health care and services for all. Parliament’s resolution also makes reference to this declaration, and it is important that the recommendations in the UN declaration are taken seriously.

 
  
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  Daciana Octavia Sârbu (S&D), in writing. – Although there is no cure for diabetes, it can often be prevented. In 2007, the Commission published its strategy on nutrition and obesity, which emphasised how clear and accurate information about food can help prevent diseases such as diabetes. So, five years on, what has the strategy achieved? It has promoted voluntary codes and a self-regulatory approach to the advertising of foodstuffs to children. However, according to the Commission’s own progress report, some Member States have not yet adopted a voluntary code, whilst others have no mechanism in place to check whether their code is being implemented.

Unhealthy foods which increase the risk of obesity and diabetes are still being aggressively marketed to children. The strategy on nutrition also highlighted the role of the Health Claims Regulation in ensuring that consumers are not misled by inaccurate or confusing claims. But this regulation cannot function properly because the Commission has not yet proposed key elements of it. So the health claims legislation is not yet in operation and, in the meantime, junk food continues to be advertised to children. The Commission and the Member States must re-think their approach to information and education about food if they are serious about tackling diabetes.

 
  
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  Monika Smolková (S&D), in writing. (SK) In my country, Slovakia, our life expectancy lags behind the EU average by almost five years for both men and women. I therefore welcome any initiative to promote health that can also be implemented in national health promotion programmes. We are also observing an increase in the incidence and prevalence of diabetes in adults. Over the past 20 years, it has almost doubled, and is rising every year.

Given that there is currently no European strategy for tackling diabetes and a lack of funds for competitive research, it is up to the Member States to complement national health support programmes with diabetes programmes aimed at promoting health and bring about a gradual change in attitude regarding people’s own health. So that this does not happen only in national programmes, however, the Commission must draw up a targeted EU strategy in all respects concerning the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diabetes, as well as research into the disease.

 
  
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  Claudiu Ciprian Tănăsescu (S&D), in writing.(RO) I think that now, when roughly 10% of the EU population has diabetes, we must assume the leading role at global level in looking for the most suitable solutions for reducing the incidence of diabetes. Some of the actions we need to take include allocating additional funds for measures to prevent diabetes among the population and identifying the most appropriate measures for encouraging consumers to have a healthier lifestyle. We would say that initial measures are being taken in this direction. I am referring here, in particular, not only to the regulation on nutritional and health claims made on foods, but also to the reform of the common agricultural policy, which offers an opportunity to increase the population’s access to healthier food.

In addition to taking preventive measures, we must consider the early detection of the disease and, by extension, the development of instruments for tackling the social inequalities among the population groups at risk. To achieve this, we need to have access to data on chronic diseases in Member States and get involved in cooperation because we can overcome scientific challenges only through joint efforts. Furthermore, we need to focus more on education and its role in selecting the healthiest models of consumption.

 
  
  

(The sitting was suspended at 19.50 and resumed at 21.00)

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MIGUEL ANGEL MARTÍNEZ MARTÍNEZ
Vice-President

 
Last updated: 6 June 2012Legal notice