Skip to main content
Public Health

Health-EU newsletter 260 - Focus

New actions proposed for building a stronger, more resilient European Health Union

Sandra Gallina, the European Commission’s Director General for Health and Food Safety, outlines some of the actions the Commission proposed on 11 November for building a European Health Union ready to tackle health threats of all types in a more coordinated, effective way.

Why are new measures necessary?

The rise in COVID-19 infection rates across Europe is very alarming. Decisive immediate action is needed for Europe to protect lives, to alleviate the pressure on healthcare systems, and to control the spread of the virus. We have taken steps to address these areas in the short-term, but we also need more sustainable solutions.

Citizens have asked the EU to do more. Our new proposals will help us to better respond to Member States’ needs and to build a strong and resilient Europe Health Union that can withstand other health threats in the future.

What lessons have you learnt from the pandemic?

The coronavirus outbreak taught us that we need to make some structural improvements in how we work together.

The 2013 Decision on cross-border health threats laid the groundwork for information exchange and joint procurement for the purchase of medical countermeasures such as personal protection gear and medical equipment like ventilators for hospitals. It has saved countless lives during this crisis and helped us to successfully negotiate for COVID-19 vaccines. Now, we must build upon these successes and address shortcomings in areas such as coordination of response measures, common data sets and risk assessments in order to boost Europe’s overall level of preparedness.

What are the main proposals to step up our health crisis preparedness and response?

One of the main ways we hope to improve our common coordination and preparedness is by strengthening the roles of vital partners that have played crucial roles throughout the pandemic - the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

With greater support, the ECDC can help us increase capacities for preparedness, surveillance, early warning, and risk assessment, while a strengthened EMA can help us address vulnerability in the supply chains for both medical products and for medicines by better monitoring and mitigating these situations.

We also intend to publish a new pharmaceutical strategy to address these medical shortages during times of crisis, but also to ensure the affordability of medical countermeasures such as vaccines and therapies. On a global level, we need to ask where medicines are being developed. We want to make medicines available to all citizens in the EU and to protect what Europeans value most – their health.

I also want to announce our plans to establish an EU body for research and development that would focus on protecting EU citizens from pandemic influenzas like COVID-19 and from chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats. This new body would be similar in set-up and purpose to the American Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).

All of these proposals strengthen our response at EU-level, but beating COVID-19 depends on individuals everywhere taking personal responsibility and following all guidelines to reduce the transmission of this ruthless virus. It is only by showing solidarity and working together that we can overcome this crisis. Together we are stronger.

Activities at EU level

European Health Union

European Commission

Coronavirus Response

European Commission

Advisory Panel on Covid-19

European Commission – Health and Food Safety

Health security and infectious diseases

European Commission – Health and Food Safety

Joint Procurement of medical countermeasures

European Commission – Health and Food Safety

Coronavirus Disease

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control

COVID-19 Pandemic

European Medicines Agency


EU proposals aim to increase capacity and build a more resilient European Health Union

The European Commission has put forward a number of measures to build a strong European Health Union, in which all EU countries prepare and respond together to health crisis.

High-level webinar held on ‘Building a European Health Union: preparedness and resilience for cross-border health threats’

Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides and the Commission’s Director-General for Health and Food Safety, Sandra Gallina both spoke at the 29 October event held to present ideas and get stakeholders’ input to shape proposals before their official presentation on 11 November.

Tackling the coronavirus resurgence: European Commission sets out new actions to reinforce preparedness and response measures across the EU

The Commission announced concrete actions on 28 October 2020 in a Communication on additional COVID-19 response measures to help build increased resilience across several areas in all Member States.

Commission and WHO Europe Joint Statement: A deeper and result-oriented partnership for health in Europe

In this joint statement, the European Commission and the WHO Regional Office recognised synergies between their respective programmes and strategies and expressed a willingness to deepen their collaboration.

EU interoperability gateway goes live, first contact tracing and warning apps linked to the system

To exploit the full potential of contact tracing and warning apps to break the chain of coronavirus infections across borders and save lives, the Commission, at the invitation by EU Member States, has set up a ‘gateway’, or an EU-wide system to ensure interoperability.

Get daily and weekly updates on the COVID-19 situation

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control provides daily and weekly situation updates for both the EU/EEA and UK and for the entire world, as well as a weekly surveillance report and a map in support of the Council Recommendation.

European Medicines Agency further implements two transparency measures for COVID-19 medicines

The agency published both the clinical data in support of the authorisation of Veklury (remdesivir) and information on the COVID-19 treatments and vaccines that have received scientific advice or informal guidance from EMA’s pandemic Task Force.

European Medicines Agency provides guidance to assist developers of potential COVID-19 medicines

The agency is interacting with developers of potential COVID-19 treatments and vaccines to enable promising medicines to reach patients as soon as possible. It is also making use of real-world data to monitor the safety and effectiveness of medicines used in patients with COVID-19.

Other interesting links