Procedure : 2020/2691(RSP)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : B9-0220/2020

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>Petra De Sutter</Depute>

<Commission>{Verts/ALE}on behalf of the Verts/ALE 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 Article 3 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU),

 having regard to Articles 4, 6, 9, 114, 153, 169 and 191 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), in particular Article 168 thereof,

 having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, in particular Article 35 thereof,

 having regard to its resolution of 17 April 2020 on EU coordinated action to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences[1],

 having regard to the World Health Organization (WHO) manifesto for a healthy and green COVID-19 recovery[2],

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

A. whereas COVID-19 has demonstrated the interdependencies between human health and the health of our planet and our vulnerabilities; whereas the emergence of zoonotic diseases that are transferred from animals to humans is exacerbated by anthropogenic climate change, the destruction of biodiversity and environmental degradation;

B. whereas the WHO manifesto for a healthy and green COVID-19 recovery sets out six prescriptions for a healthy and green recovery:

a. Protect and preserve the source of human health: Nature;

b. Invest in essential services, from water and sanitation, to clean energy in healthcare facilities;

c. Ensure a quick healthy energy transition;

d. Promote healthy, sustainable food systems;

e. Build healthy, liveable cities;

f. Stop using taxpayers money to fund pollution;

C. whereas this resolution will focus on the more narrow scope of public health policies as referred to in Article 168 and Article 114 of the TFEU;

D. whereas COVID-19 has highlighted the fact that the European Union does not have strong enough tools to deal with a health emergency such as the spread of a novel infectious disease, which by its nature knows no borders;

E. 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 that all signatories have committed to achieve by 2030;

F. whereas the European Union has significant competence in public health, but healthcare systems remain the responsibility of Member States, with minimal cooperation at EU level;

G. whereas Article 168 of the TFEU stipulates that ‘a high level of human health protection shall be ensured in the definition and implementation of all Community policies and activities’ and the Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled on numerous occasions that the EU can pursue public health objectives through internal market measures;

H. whereas the public’s confidence in the EU will depend on the willingness and ability of the Commission, the EU agencies and the Member States to work together on health issues;

I. whereas the EU currently regulates products that have an impact on health and health outcomes, including tobacco, alcohol, food and chemicals, as well as pharmaceuticals and medical devices;

J. whereas there is an EU regulation and policy governing clinical trials and the coordination of healthcare systems through the Directive on cross-border healthcare[3]; whereas discussions on the proposal on health technology assessments are ongoing;

K. whereas health research is funded by the Horizon 2020 initiative and the upcoming Horizon Europe, the Health Programme and the upcoming EU4Health Programme, as well as other EU funds;

L. whereas the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the European Chemicals Agency and the European Food Safety Authority are all executive agencies with important public health functions;

M. whereas the current emergency response infrastructure, including the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the Decision on cross-border threats to health[4] and the Union Civil Protection Mechanism, has been tested to its limits during the current health crisis;

N. whereas healthcare professionals have been exposed to unacceptably high risks and, in some cases, have been forced to take decisions on who can and cannot receive healthcare;

O. whereas the COVID-19 crisis has changed the working conditions of many workers in Europe and has raised new questions regarding health and safety in the workplace;

P. whereas the COVID-19 health crisis and its spread across Europe have exposed the difference in capacity between the healthcare systems of the Member States, and have demonstrated that Member States depend on neighbouring countries with sufficiently resilient systems;

Q. whereas cross-border cooperation is essential, especially in times of health crisis;

R. whereas, in the absence of coordination at European level, international stockpiling could lead to a market imbalance and exacerbate shortages of essential medicines, vaccines and personal protective equipment (PPE) along global supply chains;

S. whereas the measures adopted by the EU and the Member States in times of crisis must respect the rights of persons with disabilities in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities;

T. whereas different approaches to the collection of data on COVID-19 in the EU has made it difficult to compare the data at EU level;

U. whereas some Member States are suffering considerably from the brain drain, with highly qualified healthcare professionals choosing to work in Member States where wages and conditions are better than in their own countries;

V. whereas EU joint procurement has been successfully used for PPE, test kits, ventilators and certain medicines, although the mechanism has proved to be slower and less effective than needed;

W. whereas the rescEU capacity has stockpiled key resources such as masks, ventilators and laboratory equipment, to be deployed where most needed;

X. whereas various ad hoc arrangements were put in place during the COVID-19 health crisis, including the Commission’s panel of experts and guidelines for the treatment of patients and the dispatch of healthcare workers to other Member States;

Y. whereas the loss of European sovereignty and independence in the health sector is linked to the relocation of production; whereas pharmaceutical supply chains depend on active pharmaceutical ingredients or generics that are manufactured in third countries, sometimes by a single plant at global level; whereas the export bans imposed during the COVID-19 health crisis have highlighted the danger of relying on such supply chains;

Z. whereas the mental health implications of a virus outbreak have been largely overlooked by Member States during the COVID-19-crisis;

AA. whereas the COVID-19 crisis and other health challenges within the EU’s borders do not mean that the EU can ignore its health responsibilities towards people in need within its territory and beyond its borders;

1. Believes that the time has come to strengthen public health competences at EU level; stresses that strengthening EU collaboration in the field of health should not be limited to better crisis preparedness; stresses the need for health policies to focus on the public interest;

2. Calls on the Commission to support a ‘health in all policies’ approach, which takes into account the impact of public policy on health systems, health determinants, inequalities and well-being and aims to integrate health aspects horizontally into all relevant policies, such as agriculture, trade, environment, climate, transport and research;

3. Calls on the Member States to urgently carry out stress tests on their healthcare systems in order to verify 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 to establish common parameters;

4. Calls on the Commission to propose a directive on minimum standards for quality healthcare, based on the results of the stress tests, maintaining Member States’ competence in the management, organisation and funding of their healthcare systems, but ensuring patient safety, decent working and employment standards for healthcare workers and European resilience in the face of pandemics and other public health crises;

5. Calls on the Commission to establish a European healthcare index to track the progress of healthcare systems in the EU;

6. Calls on the Commission to integrate healthcare indicators in the framework of the European Semester;

7. Deems that stronger health care systems in the EU are essential to strengthen crisis preparedness; considers that this requires more investment in public health care systems and better working conditions and training for healthcare workers;

8. Calls on the Commission to propose a European health response mechanism which would formalise the working methods established during the COVID-19 health crisis, building on the measures provided for in the Directive on cross-border healthcare and the Union Civil Protection Mechanism; calls for the creation of a health crisis management unit to run the European health response mechanism, coordinated by the ECDC and led by the Commissioner for Health and the Commissioner for Crisis Management, together with EMA and the expert panel; calls for this unit to be prepared with a pandemic emergency plan, in order to have a coordinated response;

9. Calls for the strengthening of rescEU capacity, including the stockpiling capacity and the capacity of emergency medical teams; calls for the creation of databases which would bring together all necessary information on stocks of medicines, available intensive care beds and medical devices in the Member States; calls on Member States and border regions to deepen cross-border cooperation in the field of healthcare, removing administrative obstacles and encouraging inter-hospital agreements;

10. Calls on the Commission to ensure transparency in the operation of RescEU and the criteria for the distribution of stocks; urges the Commission to develop guidelines to ensure that national stockpiling initiatives are proportionate to needs and do not create unintended consequences in Member States;

11. Considers that the Union should be able to rely on the mobilisation of health professionals through the European Medical Corps created to provide rapid medical assistance and public health expertise in all Member States;

12. Calls for the EU to develop and include specific plans in collaboration with Member States to maintain access to treatment and care for chronically ill patients and persons with disabilities in the EU in times of pandemic; stresses that particular attention should be given to equal access to healthcare and to ensuring that community-based care and support services, which persons with disabilities need on a daily basis, are financed and adequately equipped and staffed;

13. Calls on the Commission, Member States and global partners to ensure rapid, fair, equal and affordable access for all to future COVID-19 vaccines and treatments as soon as they are available;

14. Emphasises the strategic importance and value of investing in a European-based network of manufacturers and suppliers in exchange for binding commitments on issues such as transparency, traceability, accessibility and affordability of manufacturing and distribution throughout the supply chain to ensure that medicines are equally available in all regions at a fair price;

15. Insists that all publicly funded research must remain in the public domain; calls on the Commission and pharmaceutical companies to establish full transparency on the results of publicly financed R&D so that patenting and licensing conditions ensure a return on public health investment and reflect the structure of R&D funding;

16. Calls on the EU and the Member States to officially support the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) and to make public funding conditional on participation in the pool, allowing maximum sharing of knowledge, intellectual property and data related to COVID-19 health technologies for the benefit of all countries and citizens;

17. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to incorporate collective safeguards in favour of the public, such as transparency regarding public contributions, accessibility and affordability clauses and non-exclusive licences for the exploitation of the final products, in all current and future calls for funding and investment;

18. Urges Member States to issue compulsory licences for life–saving medicines, in the event that third countries do not share the vaccine and/or treatment or the respective knowledge;

19. Calls on the Commission to assess the impact of intellectual property incentives on biomedical innovation in general and to explore credible and effective alternatives to exclusive protections for the financing of medical R&D, such as the numerous tools based on delinkage mechanisms;

20. Calls for additional funds in Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe to be specifically earmarked for clinical trials and new medicines that have a clear societal value, with public sharing of the results;

21. Calls for EU joint procurement to be used for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, and for it to be used more systematically to avoid Member States competing against each other and to ensure equal and affordable access to important medicines and medical devices, in particular for new innovative antibiotics, new vaccines and curative medicines, and medicines for rare diseases;

22. Calls on the Commission to revise the mechanism for joint procurement under the Decision on cross-border threats to health and to propose a new regulation to make joint EU procurement faster and more effective in the event of a health crisis and to ensure equal and affordable access to new treatments;

23. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to present a new proposal to revise Directive 89/105/EEC[5] on the transparency of prices, ensuring transparency of the R&D costs, and putting Member States on an equal footing when negotiating with manufacturers for treatments which are not jointly procured;

24. Calls for the swift implementation of the much-delayed Clinical Trials Regulation[6] in order to ensure the transparency of clinical trial results and facilitate larger cross-border clinical trials;

25. Calls for the Pharmaceutical strategy for Europe to address the problems of pharmaceutical supply chains in the EU and globally, which should include legislative measures, policies and incentives to encourage the production of essential active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and medicines in the EU in order to ensure supply and affordable access at all times without prejudice to the actions taken under the strategic approach to pharmaceuticals in the environment; considers that the Pharmaceutical strategy for Europe should be without prejudice to the actions to be taken under the strategic approach to pharmaceuticals in the environment;

26. Calls for the EU to create public and independent supply chains and laboratories capable of producing at least 20 % of APIs and essential medicines in order to ensure a public safety net in the EU medicines market; believes this should help the EU to be more resilient and better protect citizens against shortages of medicines and the pharmaceutical industry’s hard bargaining; calls for compulsory national inventories of medicines and medical devices to be established in each Member State and for information to be provided to the Commission and EMA in order to ensure that any shortages can be predicted and addressed;

27. Calls on the Commission to amend pharmaceutical legislation to allow derogations from data and market exclusivity where there is a public health need and where a compulsory or government licence has been issued;

28. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to strengthen their work on the responsibilities of Market Authorisation Holders (MAHs) in relation to the continuous supply obligations set out in Article 81 of Directive 2001/83/EC; calls on the Commission to clarify the obligations in applicable guidelines and to promote increased competition and security of supply for vaccines and essential medicines;

29. Calls on the Commission to assess the impact of parallel trade on the shortage of medicines in the Member States, including the alleviation of shortages, and to adequately address the problems, including possible illegal applications of supply quota systems as a means of introducing legislation to ban parallel exports, by taking the necessary actions to ensure that medicines reach all patients in the EU in a timely manner;

30. Calls for a revision of EU Regulation (EC) No 141/2000[7] on orphan medicinal products to reverse the ‘burden of proof’ for the 10-year market exclusivity clause so that the marketing authorisation holder has to prove that the product is not sufficiently profitable to cover R&D costs;

31. Calls on the Commission to draw up targeted guidelines on the Public Procurement Directive[8] with regard to the award of tenders to the pharmaceutical sector; calls for these guidelines to be based on the ‘most economically advantageous tender’ (MEAT criteria), allowing the contracting authority to take account of criteria that reflect qualitative, technical and sustainable aspects of the tender submission as well as price;

32. Calls on the Commission to propose a revised mandate for ECDC in order to significantly increase its budget, staff and competences to enable it to provide world-class public health protection at all times, including during epidemics;

33. Calls for a stronger role for EMA in monitoring and avoiding medicine shortages and in the coordinating the design and approval of EU clinical trials in times of crisis;

34. Calls for the role of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work to be strengthened in order to ensure that healthcare workers are not put at risk;

35. Calls for EU health guidelines to be strengthened and made mandatory in certain cases,  such as EU Action Plans on antimicrobial resistance and vaccination that should be reinforced with binding measures, so as to limit the use of antimicrobials for humans to what is strictly necessary, and an EU vaccination card for citizens; calls for ECDC guidelines on the COVID-19 health crisis to be made mandatory, such as methods for recording deaths and recoveries;

36. Calls on the Commission to propose, in consultation with civil society, the creation of a European Health Data Space that serves the needs of patients and health professionals and fully respects the European data protection framework, in order to improve standardisation, data sharing and the adoption and promotion of international standards for health data; stresses that digital health should contribute to better health for all and should not increase inequalities;

37. Stresses that in order to reduce the risk of future epidemics, it is necessary to go beyond early detection and control of disease outbreaks and reduce the risk at source;

38. Firmly believes in the One Health approach linking human health, animal health and environmental protection; believes that tackling climate change, environmental degradation, loss of biodiversity and unsustainable food production methods is essential to protect human health;

39. Urges the EU and its Member States to call on the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services to launch an in-depth scientific review on the link between pandemics such as COVID-19, swine flu, MERS and SARS, caused by pathogens transmitted from animals to humans, and biodiversity degradation, deforestation and other changes in land use, in order to inform policy makers on biodiversity strategies that minimise the risk of such zoonoses;

40. Stresses the need to prioritise prevention, which benefits both the health of citizens and national health budgets;

41. Calls on the Commission to take all necessary action to tackle health determinants such as smoking, alcohol consumption, poor nutrition, air pollution, exposure to hazardous chemicals and health inequalities in order to improve health outcomes;

42. Calls for the European Reference Networks to be extended to include infectious diseases and zoonoses;

43. Calls on the Commission to develop a strategy for a ‘resilient Europe’, consisting of a risk assessment map and options for ensuring sound management and investments in healthcare systems and pandemic response at European level, including resilient supply chains in the EU;

44. Calls for a coordinated, collaborative and open approach in the field of research, with a strengthened role for the Commission in the coordination of health research in order to avoid duplication and to gear research towards results, including necessary medicines, vaccines, medical devices and equipment;

45. Calls for the establishment of a European Research Council to develop and implement a roadmap for health research and to link the newly acquired knowledge to a pan-European health policy;

46. Warmly welcomes the increase in the proposed budget for the new EU4Health Programme;

47. Calls on the Commission to propose a further update to the EU 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 at work to recognise anxiety, depression and burn-out as occupational diseases;

48. Calls for an EU action plan 2021-2027 on mental health, with equal attention to the biomedical and psychosocial factors of ill mental health; 

49. Calls on the EU to cooperate fully with the WHO and other international bodies to combat infectious diseases, achieve universal health coverage for all and strengthen health systems globally;

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

[1] Texts adopted, P9_TA(2020)0054.

[3] OJ L 88, 4.4.2011, p. 45.

[4] OJ L 293, 5.11.2013, p. 1.


[5] OJ L 40, 11.2.1989, p. 8.

[6] OJ L 158, 27.5.2014, p. 1.


[7] OJ L 18, 22.1.2000, p. 1.

[8] OJ L 94, 28.3.2014, p. 65.


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