The CoR Interregional Group on Health and Well-being (IRGHW) held a meeting on 2 March. The event was dedicated to the opinions of the Committee of the Regions on strengthening the ECDC and EMA mandate, and on the Pharmaceutical Strategy. The gathering was organized to allow the members of the Interregional Group to hold an interactive exchange with representatives of the European Commission and the European Parliament on the opinions that will be adopted during the plenary session in May.

The first part of the meeting dealt with the regulation for tackling cross-border health threats and the legislative proposal for changing the mandate of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Ms Agnes Molnar, Deputy Head of the Health Security and Vaccination Unit (DG SANTE), and Mr Sándor Rónai, Member of the European Parliament were part of this discussion. 

Ms Agnes Molnar presented the proposal of the European Commission to build a strong European Health Union. These plans aim to strengthen the European health security framework and reinforce the role in crisis preparedness and response of EU agencies. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need to build strong capacities in surveillance, preparedness, early warning, risk assessment, and response to cross-border health threats. She highlighted the added value of the regional and local authorities during the COVID-19 outbreak, especially in cross-border cooperation, and the need to involve regional and local authorities in this new EU preparedness and response system.

Mr Sándor Rónai stressed that we must draw lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic, especially those that deal with collaboration between the Member States in healthcare. He underlined that the ECDC must have more power to face future health emergencies. According to Mr Rónai, we can only control future epidemics by establishing better integrated digital systems, automated contact tracing, monitoring health systems capacity, better coordination, and trust among networks. It is necessary to involve all the actors (including the regions) in this dialogues and establish a strategy that connects global solutions to local politicians and citizens.

The second part of the event focused on Europe’s Pharmaceutical Strategy and the legislative proposal to change the mandate of the European Medical Agency (EMA). Mr Sylvain Giraud, Head of the Medical products: quality, safety, innovation Unit at DG SANTE, joined the discussion to discuss EMA’s mandate. 

Mr Giraud explained that the proposal aims to reinforce the crisis preparedness and response role of the EMA for future health emergencies. We need to develop a certain number of necessary tools and mechanisms which help to identify the medicinal products that are considered predictable during crises. We should add more regularity on demand and supply for those specific products by establishing a network of national contacts in collaboration with the industry and the relevant marketing authorization orders. On the other hand, the Pharmaceutical Strategy has the ambition to address the challenges related to availability, accessibility, affordability, and innovation. It pushes further cooperation between Member States authorities. He underlined that this new framework allows public authorities to optimize their public health decisions and become better in sharing information. 

Throughout the meeting, CoR Members and external stakeholders were able to ask questions and exchange their ideas. The main discussion points related to the role of regions, COVID-19, the possibilities and limits of the ECDC and EMA, digitalization, and access to medicines. The chair, Ms Sacrédeus, informed the audience that the CoR’s NAT Commission will discuss the proposals during its meeting on 22 March.