The European Union unveils a key tool to face future pandemics

Called the Health Emergency Response Authority (HERA), the new structure will be endowed with six billion euros to prepare the EU for future pandemics.

Brussels will unveil on Thursday the outlines of a body endowed with six billion euros responsible for preparing the EU for future pandemics, indicates the project consulted by AFP, which arouses strong criticism from MEPs withdrawn from the file.

Called HERA (“Health Emergency Response Authority“), The new structure must”strengthen the EU’s capacity to prevent, detect and respond rapidly»The next health crises, by ensuring the development, supply, storage and distribution of necessary medical treatments. In his project of “Europe of health», Brussels had shown in November 2020 its ambition to create the equivalent of the powerful Authority for Biomedical Research and Development (Barda) in the United States, which depends on the US Department of Health and has colossal means to collaborate with Laboratories.

According to the text to be endorsed Thursday by the commissioners, HERA will not be an independent agency on the model of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) or the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). It will be established “within the Commission, as a shared resource for Member States and the EU“, A format that will make it fully operational”from early 2022», To operate in a flexible manner and to rely on the powers and expertise of the European executive, underlines the document.

«Strengthen coordination»Between member states

The structure will have to “strengthen coordinationBetween the Member States, in conjunction with the pharmaceutical industry, in particular to resolve the problems of shortages and dependence highlighted by the Covid-19 pandemic. HERA will be steered by a council bringing together experts from the Commission and representatives of the States, and the European Parliament will have to be satisfied with one observer.

If the states, whose health is an exclusive competence, will have to give the green light, the text will not be debated or voted on by the European Parliament – a snub for the MEPs gathered this week in Strasbourg. “Ambitions seem to be on the decline. This authority should not be an empty shell, nor a simple reaction committee in the hands of the Commission and the States.», Regretted Nathalie Colin-Oesterlé (EPP, right), rapporteur of a text on drug shortages.

«We end up with a proposal devoid of any legislative ambition, the Parliament preparing to be excluded from the discussion“, even if “we understand the need to go quickly and be pragmatic», Reacted Véronique Trillet-Lenoir (Renew, Liberals). MEPs adopted on Wednesday, against the Commission’s opinion, a proposal to broaden the areas of intervention of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), by 598 votes in favor, 84 against and 13 abstentions.

The text, intended to be discussed with the Commission and the States, proposes to extend the agency’s mandate beyond communicable diseases so that it also covers the main non-communicable diseases (cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, cancers, etc. diabetes and mental illness).

Present in Strasbourg, the Commissioner for Health, Stella Kyriakides, had yet said Monday in the hemicycle opposed to such an enlargement. “This will duplicate the work already done in the Member States (…) and these new tasks will strain ECDC’s resources, helping to weaken it (for its main missions) rather than strengthen it.She had argued.

The proposed measures should also allow the ECDC to collect more epidemiological data from states, in order to provide better analyzes and models to control outbreaks of contagion, explained the Polish rapporteur Joanna Kopcinska (CRE, nationalist right). The proposals for revising the mandates of the ECDC, but also of the EMA, “outline the contours of a true European Health Union», Welcomed Véronique Trillet-Lenoir.

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