Procedure : 2020/2691(RSP)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : B9-0216/2020

Texts tabled :


Debates :

PV 08/07/2020 - 21
CRE 08/07/2020 - 21

Votes :

Texts adopted :


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<TitreSuite>to wind up the debate on the statements by the Council and the Commission</TitreSuite>

<TitreRecueil>pursuant to Rule 132(2) of the Rules of Procedure</TitreRecueil>

<Titre>on the EU’s public health strategy post-COVID-19</Titre>


<RepeatBlock-By><Depute>Kateřina Konečná, Marc Botenga</Depute>

<Commission>{GUE/NGL}on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group</Commission>


See also joint motion for a resolution RC-B9-0216/2020


European Parliament resolution on the EU’s public health strategy post-COVID-19


The European Parliament,

 having regard to the risk assessment of the COVID-19 outbreak carried out by the World Health Organization (WHO), which has declared the risk of the spread and the risk of the impact of COVID-19 to be ‘very high’ at a global level and has characterised the outbreak as a pandemic,

 having regard to the WHO manifesto for a healthy and green COVID-19 recovery,

 having regard to the most recent communicable disease threats report (CDTR) of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and to the ECDC’s public health guidelines on COVID-19,

 having regard to the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR), proclaimed by Parliament, the Council and the Commission on 17 November 2017,

 having regard to the International Labour Organization preliminary assessment note of 18 March 2020 entitled ‘COVID-19 and the world of work: Impacts and policy responses’,

 having regard to the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union (Fiscal Compact),

 having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948,

 having regard to the UN General Assembly resolution of 3 April 2020 on global solidarity to fight the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19),

 having regard to the UN Conference on Trade and Development report update of March 2020 on the COVID-19 shock to developing countries,

 having regard to its resolution of 28 November 2019 on the climate and environment emergency[1],

 having regard to Rule 132(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A. whereas the novel coronavirus, first reported in Wuhan in December 2019 and now known as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), together with its associated disease, COVID-19, has now spread all over the world, and is officially characterised as a pandemic;

B. whereas the world cannot afford repeated disasters on the scale of COVID-19, whether they are triggered by the next pandemic or the result of mounting environmental damage and climate change;

C. whereas the right to physical and mental health is a fundamental human right; whereas every person, without discrimination, has the right to access modern and comprehensive healthcare; whereas universal health coverage is a Sustainable Development Goal all signatories have committed to achieving by 2030;

D. whereas Article 168 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) stipulates that ‘a high level of human health protection shall be ensured in the definition and implementation of all Union policies and activities’;

E. whereas public healthcare systems are under great pressure to ensure adequate care for all patients; whereas they are receiving less and less funding and are being neglected as a result of liberalisation and privatisation processes and right-wing austerity measures; whereas they are consequently less able to function in both normal and abnormal situations, including the current COVID-19 outbreak;

F. whereas healthcare professionals have been exposed to unacceptably high risks and whereas the COVID-19 crisis has changed working conditions for many workers in Europe and raised new questions regarding health and safety in the workplace;

G. whereas there is a worrying lack of intensive care unit beds, personal protective equipment (PPE), medicines and medical devices all over the Member States; whereas this scarcity varies considerably from country to country; whereas the lack of availability of PPE has contributed substantially to the spread of the virus and has put the lives of many frontline workers in particular danger, even leading to death;

H. whereas an estimated two billion people worldwide do not have access to basic medicines;

I. whereas the EU, in close cooperation with international financial institutions over recent decades, has been imposing neoliberal reforms that drastically cut government spending, leading to disastrous effects on public health systems;

J. whereas the USA has reportedly purchased more than 90 % of the world’s supply of the broad-spectrum antiviral medication remdesivir, the only current proven treatment for COVID-19; whereas generic alternatives for the drug exist but patent laws restrict their use; whereas several pharmaceutical companies were accused of preparing preferential access to COVID-19 treatments and vaccines to the highest bidder;

K. whereas Commission President Ursula von der Leyen promised on 24 April 2020 to make a future COVID-19 vaccine ‘our universal, common good’; whereas beating a pandemic such as COVID-19 will require future vaccines and treatments to be universally accessible; whereas this is not only a matter of justice but also an issue of public health;

L. whereas the polio vaccine was brought onto the markets patent-free and the disease has now been eradicated in many regions of the world; whereas the South African Government led by Nelson Mandela was forced to use the availability of compulsory licensing to push for affordable and quality generic equivalents in order to avoid paying exorbitant prices to multinational drug companies using patents for HIV treatment;

M. whereas the EU Vaccine Strategy heavily relies on advance purchase agreements but does not even explicitly mention availability at cost; whereas the production cost of a pharmaceutical product needs to be independently assessed and requires full transparency with regard to the use of public funds by private beneficiaries;

N. whereas the Commission has taken different initiatives in an effort to counteract COVID-19, such as through the Horizon 2020 research programme, the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the global pledging event Coronavirus Global Response, which has so far raised EUR 9.8 billion;

O. whereas researchers around the world are developing vaccines and treatments, often using huge sums of public money;

P. whereas several Member States have introduced or broadened legislation allowing intellectual property rights to be restricted; whereas pharmaceutical corporations have been known to exploit patents to limit access to effective treatments and cures, at the expense of countless lives in Europe and across the world; whereas big pharmaceutical companies should not profit from this pandemic at the expense of people’s health; whereas EU rules on data and market exclusivity allow patent protections to be extended for up to 10 years;

Q. whereas Regulation (EC) No 816/2006 on compulsory licensing of patents relating to the manufacture of pharmaceutical products for export[2] and Regulation (EU) 2019/933 amending Regulation (EC) No 469/2009 concerning the supplementary protection certificate for medicinal products[3] contain waivers regarding data and market exclusivity; whereas these waivers are unduly limited;

R. whereas COVID-19 has demonstrated the interdependencies between human health and the health of our planet; whereas the emergence of zoonotic diseases – those transferred from animals to humans – is exacerbated by climate change and environmental degradation;

Protecting nature for a sustainable post-COVID-19 recovery

1. Recalls that strengthening the public provision of universal healthcare is the best way to fight global epidemics and protect our societies; emphasises that prevention is the best cure; calls for the full implementation of the One Health principle, which recognises that human, animal and environmental health are closely interlinked; recalls the importance of health in all policies; notes with concern how rising global temperatures and the destruction of habitat and biodiversity can greatly exacerbate the risk of zoonotic diseases to public health; stresses the need to drastically step up efforts to halt global warming and biodiversity and habitat loss; calls for the European Reference Networks to be expanded to include infectious diseases and zoonosis;

2. Stresses that while zoonotic disease are of all times, the way in which humans are currently farming, trading and consuming animals greatly enhances the threat animals pose to public health; calls for a fundamental change to the common agricultural policy in order to stimulate agro-ecological farming, reduce livestock numbers, and the production and consumption of meat and dairy in the EU and help prevent zoonotic outbreaks;

3. Stresses that the recommendations of the WHO manifesto for a healthy and green COVID-19 recovery must be fully implemented at EU and national levels; calls on the Commission to swiftly publish a communication addressing each of the following six key recommendations and elaborating on how it will ensure their full implementation:

 i)  Protect and preserve the source of human health – nature;

 ii)  Invest in essential services, from water and sanitation to clean energy in  healthcare facilities;

 iii)  Ensure a quick and healthy energy transition;

 iv)  Promote healthy and sustainable food systems;

 v)  Build healthy, liveable cities;

 vi) Stop using taxpayers’ money to fund pollution;

Public health going forward

4. Warns that the defence of public health does not correspond to the pursuit of profit, which will always be obtained at the expense of peoples’ well-being; advocates the view that public health services should be free, of quality and universal; considers it essential that Member States’ health budgets are increased;

5. Believes that public health systems must be strengthened in both their curative and preventive dimension to be better equipped and financed to deal with the next epidemic; calls on the Member States to carry out stress tests on their healthcare systems as a matter of urgency so as to ensure that they are prepared for a possible resurgence of COVID-19 and any future health crisis; calls on the Commission to coordinate this work and establish common parameters; believes public control of key sectors, including the nationalisation of healthcare facilities, and other sectors vital for the response effort must be supported; calls for the relocation of production for strategic sectors, which are too important to be left to the market, especially in the case of PPE, testing, medicines and medical devices, and for the establishment of publicly owned pharmaceutical companies;

6. Calls on the Member States to adopt more targeted public health and social measures in the future, applicable at regional level, including cross-border regions and euroregions; stresses that in emergent health situations, public health strategy should be coordinated not only among Member States but also with the regional and local authorities;

7. Calls on the Commission to propose a directive on minimum standards for quality healthcare based on the findings of the stress tests; considers that this directive should see the Member States retain competence for the management, organisation and funding of their healthcare systems but nonetheless guarantee patient safety, decent working and employment standards for healthcare workers and European resilience in the face of pandemics and other public health crises; call for the EU to put the public health interest before private profit by ensuring that access to diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines relating to COVID-19 should not be hampered by intellectual property rights or similar undue restrictions;

8. Calls for the rescEU capacity to be reinforced, including the stockpiling and emergency medical team capacity; urges Member States to nationalise or requisition production sites when needed in order to produce all necessary medical devices; calls on the Commission to make full use of all the possibilities afforded by the EU Civil Protection Mechanism to ensure adequate supplies in the future;

9. Calls on the Commission, the Member States and global partners to ensure rapid, fair, equal and affordable access to future COVID-19 vaccines and treatments once they are available, including compulsory patent pools, by actively contributing to these endeavours, notably during negotiations in bodies such as the WHO or for the purpose of launching COVID-19 tools via the ACT Accelerator; asks the Commission to provide support, in the event that a vaccine or treatment were to be developed without EU funding and subsequently patented, with the aim of encouraging Member States to break possible monopolies through compulsory licensing mechanisms; calls on the Commission to ensure that anti-pandemic vaccines and treatments become a global public good that is freely accessible to everyone;

10. Stresses the urgent need to ensure that pharmaceutical patents do not impede supplies in the event of a shortage of medicines; stresses the need to secure the necessary supplies at times of crisis or during any present or future epidemic outbreak, by replacing pharmaceutical patents for medicines, vaccines and medical equipment with licences for public laboratories and manufacturers to supply generic copies of branded products without the need to negotiate with patent holders; recalls the words of the UN Secretary-General, who recently stated that future COVID-19 treatment is ‘a public good’ that should be made available to all; warns that public health protection is incompatible with the desire for profit;

11. Underlines the importance of patient empowerment and a patient-centred approach; urges the Commission and Member States to improve patient representation and input within the decision-making process around healthcare policies;

12. Calls on the Commission to revise the joint procurement mechanism under Decision No 1082/20213/EU on serious cross-border threats to health[4] and to propose a new regulation to make EU joint procurement faster and more effective in health crises and in ensuring equal and affordable access to new treatments; calls on the Commission and Member States to ensure effective use of the Joint Procurement Agreement (JPA) for medical countermeasures; calls for the scope of the JPA to be expanded to go beyond cross-border health threat situations to include vaccines and rare disease medicines;

13. Calls on the Commission and Member States to revisit the idea of transparency of net pricing and reimbursement of different treatments so as to put Member States on an equal footing when negotiating with manufacturers for treatments which are not jointly procured;

14. Calls for the swift implementation of the heavily delayed Clinical Trials Regulation[5] in order to ensure the transparency of clinical trial results and facilitate larger, cross-border clinical trials;

15. Calls for a strong EU Pharmaceutical Strategy to address the problems in EU and global pharmaceutical supply chains, which should include legislative measures, policies and incentives to encourage the production of essential active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and medicines in Europe so as to guarantee supply and affordable access at all times; calls for mandatory national inventories of medicines and medical devices to be set up in each Member State and for information to be communicated to the Commission and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in order to ensure that any shortages can be anticipated and addressed;

16. Calls on the Commission to propose a revised mandate for the ECDC that will significantly increase the centre’s budget, staffing and competences to enable it to provide world-class public health protection at all times, including during epidemics;

17. Calls for a stronger role for the EMA in monitoring and forestalling medicine shortages and in coordinating the design and approval of EU clinical trials during crises; calls on the Commission to ensure that when EU public money is spent on research, the results of that research are not protected by intellectual property rights and that patients are guaranteed accessible prices for the products developed; stresses the importance of activities, institutions and global cooperation in the field of public research and development, while expressing concerns over the dominant role of multinationals in the pharmaceuticals sector; urges all pharmaceutical companies to pool their data and knowledge in a collective effort to identify, test, develop and manufacture vaccines and treatments to curb COVID-19;

18. Considers it essential to reinforce human resources in national health systems with effective work links, fair wages, and adequate working and protection conditions, with the dual aim of equipping them with the necessary training to respond to immediate health needs and reinforcing the response to demand to guarantee healthcare in general; calls for the role of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work to be strengthened so as to ensure healthcare workers are not put at risk;

19. Calls for EU guidance on health to be strengthened; calls, in particular, for the mandatory publication of ECDC guidance pertinent to the COVID-19 health crisis, such as on methods for recording deaths and recoveries;

20. Calls on the Commission to propose, in consultation with civil society, the creation of a European Health Data Space, which should fully respect the European data protection framework, in order to improve standardisation and data sharing and advance the adoption and promotion of international health data standards; asks the Commission to formally recognise the WHO COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) and to ensure through legal obligations that any knowledge, intellectual property and medical data relating to COVID-19 health technologies developed with public research funds are included therein; asks the Commission to introduce extensive waivers on data and market exclusivity in EU regulations to ensure that EU legislation does not limit the immediate effectiveness of compulsory licenses issued by Member States; insists on rapid progress on EU health technology assessment (HTA) in order to protect the rights of patients and improve access to medicine, including medical devices, in all Member States;

21. Commits to continuing to address health determinants such as tobacco use, alcohol use, poor nutrition, air pollution, exposure to hazardous chemicals and health inequalities to improve health outcomes;

22. Is concerned about the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak and its long-term consequences on the well-being of people around the world, notably the most vulnerable groups and people in vulnerable situations, such as elderly persons and those already suffering from poor health;

23. Recalls the particularly tragic impact COVID-19 has had on long-term residential facilities in Europe, which has seen the most vulnerable in society hit, with care homes accounting for more than 50 % of COVID-related deaths in some Member States; regrets the fact that persons with disabilities have often been left behind and face a particular struggle during the COVID-19 crisis;

24. Stresses that improving the living conditions of refugees, both within and outside the EU, is of crucial importance to combatting the spread of this virus; expresses concern about the impacts of COVID-19 on populations in conflict-affected areas and settings prone to natural disasters;

25. Calls on the Commission to develop a strategy for a ‘resilient Europe’ which should consist of a risk assessment map and options to address sound management and investment in healthcare systems and pandemic response at a European level, including resilient supply chains in the EU;

26. Calls on the Member States to boost mental health support initiatives during and after this crisis, in view of the stress, anxiety and loneliness brought on by lockdown, and of economic concerns and gender-based violence, taking into account the differential impact on women; emphasises the essential nature of support services for LGBTQI+ persons, including mental health support, peer support groups and support services for gender-based violence;

27. Urges the Member States to analyse the increase in domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic and to take account of it in response plans, as well as for future emergencies; calls on the Member States to ensure the provision of effective, affordable and quality medical and psychological support for the victims of gender-based violence; recalls that women and children who experience violence need dedicated shelters offering adequate healthcare services, legal assistance, and psychological counselling and therapy; recalls that women’s shelters and the women’s shelter movement should be given adequate funding by the Member States;

28. Deplores the fact that some Member States have failed to effectively guarantee safe and timely access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) during the COVID-19 pandemic; reaffirms that the denial of SRHR services, including safe and legal abortion, is a form of violence against women and girls; reiterates that the rights of LGBTI persons are an integral part of working towards complete respect for SRHR; urges all Member States to analyse how their SRHR services have fared during the pandemic and to cooperate on finding best practices for the future, in the light of the example set by several countries in finding good and innovating ways to provide SRHR services, including telemedicine, online consultations and early medication abortion from home; calls on all Member States to guarantee comprehensive sexuality education, ready access for women to family planning, and the full range of reproductive and sexual health services, including modern contraceptive methods and safe and legal abortion, also in times of crisis;

29. Calls for a coordinated, collaborative and open approach in the field of research, with a stronger role for the Commission in coordinating health research so as to avoid duplication and drive research towards outcomes yielding the requisite medicines, vaccines, medical devices and equipment; calls on the Commission to take all the relevant initiatives to guarantee and advance both the accessibility and availability of all safe and free vaccines against the coronavirus, as well as of treatments for COVID-19, using all the necessary tools, such as compulsory licensing, patent pooling and compulsory open-access research regimes;

30. Strongly welcomes the exponential increase in the proposed budget for the new EU4Health Programme; stresses, however, that increases in the EU’s health budget should not be limited to the upcoming multiannual financial framework (MFF) and that long-term investments and commitments are needed to ensure resilient public healthcare for all; calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure sufficient resources for the ECDC, EMA and the European Food Safety Agency, now and in the future long-term budget;

31. Considers that complementarity between health and social policies must be guaranteed in all legislation; deems this necessary for ensuring that social determinants prevail in the strategy for public health post-COVID-19, for combating social inequalities and poverty, and for ensuring that no one is excluded from medical support, either in the context of the current pandemic or in terms of the right to health treatment and health in general; calls on the Commission to propose a new Strategic Framework for Health and Safety, including legislation on the right to disconnect, a new directive on work-related musculoskeletal disorders and a new directive on mental well-being in the workplace with the aim of recognising anxiety, depression and burn-out as occupational diseases;

Combating austerity to ensure the health of all

32. Calls for the European Semester and Macroeconomic Imbalance Procedure to be repealed in order to give Member States the financial capacities to fund public services and recovery programmes; insists that the Commission has no role telling Member States to make cuts or liberalise their health services; stresses that the severity of the COVID-19 crisis in the EU is partly due to the underlying preconditions imposed by the European Semester procedure, which have hollowed out healthcare systems and led to more privatised, exclusionary healthcare systems;

33. Deplores the fact that from 2011 to 2018, through the European Semester, the Commission made 63 demands to individual Member States that their governments cut spending on healthcare and/or outsource or privatise health services; calls for a reversal of neoliberal policies and austerity, with substantial investment and strengthened public health and social security systems;

34. Considers it essential to abandon the public-private partnership model for the development of medicines and to fund sufficiently public research in medicines for the public good;

35. Calls for the abandonment of the Stability and Growth Pact, which has prevented Member States from properly funding their health services, driven the privatisation agenda and contributed to the EU’s disastrous response to the COVID-19 pandemic; calls for a clean break from policies based on austerity, privatisation and deregulation, which have been devastating for health systems and hurt working people;

The external dimension

36. Calls for a European sanitary exception, notified to the WTO, to be included in all trade deals, concerning access to patents on medical machinery and medicines so as to ensure that health is treated differently from other commercial products; stresses that no restrictions should be imposed on the possibility for states to intervene in the public health sector;

37. Stresses that the COVID-19 crisis has further exposed the EU’s neoliberal policies and the absence of coordination and solidarity between the Member States, as the measures needed to support Member States in severe difficulty, and to boost the economic and social recovery, were not taken on time and were insufficient in scale;

38. Calls for the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to be reformed so that Global South countries can get equitable and affordable access to the technologies and medicines that their people need; calls for public health medicines to be exempt from the patent system so as to ensure that poor countries have the legal right to produce and import generic versions of life-saving medicines;


° °

39. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission.


[1] Texts adopted, P9_TA(2019)0078.

[2] OJ L 157, 9.6.2006, p. 1.

[3] OJ L 153, 11.6.2019, p. 1.

[4] OJ L 293, 5.11.2013, p. 1.

[5] Regulation (EU) No 536/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 April 2014 on clinical trials on medical products for human use, OJ L 158, 27.5.2014, p. 1.

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