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Presidencies talking: EU Health Council Briefing

Monday, 24 June 2013

Ireland was the first EU presidency of the new trio (Ireland-Lithuania-Greece), and the pressure is on to try to finalise the dossiers that are currently on the table ahead of the EU elections and the end of this EU political cycle, said Eugene Lennon, a Health Counsellor at the Permanent Representation of Ireland to the EU.

Among the legislative priorities of the Irish EU Presidency in the field of public health were the Tobacco Products Directive, the Decision on Serious Cross-border Threats to Health, and the Health for Growth Programme of the EU budget, Lennon said.

Other presidency priorities included the Medical Devices Regulations, the Clinical Trials Directive, and the transparency of measures regulating the prices of medicinal products for human use and their inclusion in the scope of public health insurance systems, he said.

He explained that the Ireland had held 10 meetings on clinical trials during its presidency, completing the first examination of the 93 articles: this gives Lithuania a sound basis on which to make good progress. The two Medical Devices Regulations have almost 200 articles between them: they are about creating a climate ripe for innovation while ensuring sufficient safety and quality, he said.

Very little progress was made on the ‘Health for Growth’ budget file, he said, explaining that it simply had not moved, partly due to it being linked to the EU’s next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) and also due to issues concerning delegated vs. implementing acts.

He recalled that on 19 December 2012 the new EU health commissioner, Tonio Borg, published the Tobacco Products Directive, which subsequently became the number one priority of the Irish EU Presidency. 13 meetings of the Working Party were held, culminating in the agreement of a General Approach to the Directive at last Friday’s Health Council, he said.

He expressed hope that an agreement on the Tobacco Products Directive would be reached within the lifetime of the current parliament.

The programme of the current EU presidency trio includes eHealth, the EU’s involvement in the World Health Organization, and advancing EU legislation on medicinal products, medical devices, public health and foodstuffs, said Sandra Rumseviciute, a Health Attaché at the Permanent Representation of Lithuania to the EU.

On the agenda are the proposed Clinical Trials Directive, two Medical Devices Regulations, and the revision of the Tobacco Products Directive – as well as putting together the new EU public health programme for the period 2014-2020, said the Lithuanian official.

She said the key healthcare policy issues to be dealt with by the Lithuanian EU Presidency are strengthening the focus on health in the framework of the Europe 2020 Strategy, effective investment in the health sector, effective use of structural funds for investment in the health sector, economically effective use of medicinal products, and integrated care models and hospital management.

Regarding the Tobacco Products Directive, “we’re waiting for the 10 July vote in the ENVI committee, which will give the committee a mandate on the basis of which we can start technical meetings with them and proceed to formal trialogues,” said Martynas Pukas, a Health Attaché at the Permanent Representation of Lithuania to the EU.

Pukas predicted that negotiations with the European Parliament would be tough, and stressed the likely need to find a compromise.

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