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Public Health

Health-EU newsletter 235 - Focus

Help make it a healthy turnout for the EU elections!

Anne Bucher, Director-General of DG SANTE (Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety) discusses how the new European Parliament, with elections being held across the EU between 23 and 26 May 2019, will have an impact on EU policies including on Health and, most of all, on citizens lives. The European Parliament is the only EU institution whose representatives are directly elected by the people. So these elections, held every five years, give EU citizens the opportunity to help shape the future of the EU.

What’s the connection between the EU elections and health?

Voting is the cornerstone of democracy. The new European Parliament will have a big influence in many aspects of our life, including health.

In the last five years, the Parliament has been a strong voice calling for an ambitious EU health policy that makes a difference. This was done by emphasising the need to tackle antimicrobial resistance, calling for action to ensure affordable access to essential medicines and by supporting and adopting important legislation proposed by the Commission on Health Technology Assessment and veterinary medicines. The EU also continues to set safety standards that protect citizens, for example through the General Food Law.

Moreover, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are also important ambassadors for the EU. When facing their constituencies back home, they explain how important it is to cooperate across Member States, especially in the field of health.

Whether this will continue to be the case in the new Parliament is up to voters. That's why it is important that citizens use their vote to influence our future.

Do these activities mainly involve the Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety?

As the Director-General of DG SANTE, I am very proud of our work and of the results we have achieved. Through our daily tasks, the European Reference Networks that help patients with rare diseases were set up, timely cancer screenings are available across the EU and help is available in medical crises, like during the Ebola outbreak in 2015. We also help schools to provide healthy lunches and encourage children to be more physically active.

To deliver all of this, we depend on a budget, which is decided by the European Parliament and Member States. We thus need the support and encouragement of MEPs to continue this important work.

Member States are primarily responsible for their citizens’ health, but a recent Eurobarometer survey found that 70% of Europeans want the EU to play a stronger role. Air pollution, food safety, pesticides, water pollution, the safety of the workplace, of transport, buildings and even the ingredients in cosmetic products – all affect our health. The EU, across its Directorate-Generals delivers real benefits when tackling these transboundary threats.

What would you like to say to voters?

I believe that we must not become complacent about Europe. As EU citizens, we enjoy many benefits, like being able to travel across borders without a passport, living, studying and working in other EU Member States. We do not have to worry about getting sick if we eat out or buy food at the grocery. We eat food from all over the world without having to worry thanks to our import controls. Because vaccination works so well and has all but wiped out many diseases in Europe, some people think immunisation is not necessary anymore. Nothing could be further from the truth.

And so it is with the EU. We must value and appreciate how much the EU has done and what we would lose if it were to stop.

As EU citizens, we have the right and responsibility to participate in the political process. It’s my hope that we use that right and that we see a very healthy turnout at the polls!

Activities at EU level

Public Health

European Commission – Health and Food Safety


See the Health-EU newsletter archive, showcasing various ways in which the EU contributes to good health!

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