Health and consumers
Organs, health inequalities & consumer head Spanish priorities
By Marianne Slegers | Monday 04 January 2010
The Spanish EU Presidency has set out three main priorities for public health. Health inequalities, human organs and chronic diseases are high on its agenda. On the first priority, Spain will organise an expert conference in April ahead of the informal Health Council on 22-23 April. According to sources, the “main challenge” is to agree on “better indicators” and improved health information systems across the European Union to make it easier to identify inequalities in the first place.
Madrid is hoping to reach a political agreement on the ‘organs directive proposal’ at the Health Council on 8 June. Proposed in December 2008, this aims to improve the quality and safety measures for organ donations and the exchange of organs between member states. In March, the Spanish will organise an expert conference on the issue in Madrid. The draft is currently at first reading stage. While some member states disagree with the directive’s legal basis and want to ensure that the current text does not overlap with national competences, the main problem is a shortage of organs and that is a national responsibility. Spain thinks that it is possible to find a political agreement in the Council before the end of June. The proposed directive seeks to provide a legal framework for organ donation and transplants in the EU while keeping the risks involved to a minimum. It also aims to improve the allocation of organs and to provide transplant surgeons with all the information they need to make an informed choice.
Spain’s third priority in this area is to provide a policy framework to tackle the looming EU wide problem of chronic diseases. The Presidency will organise two expert conferences on this issue: one will focus on e-health and the other on patient safety related to infectious, cardiovascular and chronic mental health diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, which will become common as a result of the EU’s ageing population.
Little progress is expected on the cross-border health care directive since Spain was squarely opposed to the last compromise text from the Swedish EU Presidency, which failed to find a political agreement in December 2009. Madrid says it will wait for the Commission before making any further move in this area. After the debacle at the December Health Council, the EU Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou said that the next Commission should consider withdrawing the whole proposal and let the rules on the reimbursement of costs of cross-border health care be decided in judgements from the European Court of Justice. However, if the Commission sticks to its proposal and the member states find an agreement on the legislation, the European Parliament will have to work on a second reading report. Any new legislation will not be agreed until at least 2011.
Spain will push for first reading agreements on parts of the pharmaceutical package now being discussed in the Council. This contains three thematic and five legislative proposals. Besides “improving information to patients”, the proposals seek to strengthen pharmacovigilance and prevent counterfeit medicines from entering the legal supply chain. Progress reports from December 2009 indicate that the Council is moving towards agreement on the last two elements. One thematic strand – information to patients – has been put to one side by member states since they do not see the draft as a solid base for discussion. However, the Commission has said it will be flexible, suggesting it may table amendments enabling the Council to start negotiating the issue.
On consumer policy, the Spanish Presidency has two main priorities: the consumer rights directive and the food labelling proposal. The consumer rights directive, which aims to complete the legislative acquis on consumer rights, will be discussed at ten meetings in the next six months. There is a possibility of reaching a political agreement in the course of 2010 but this will also depend on the schedule of the European Parliament, which might not produce a first reading report before the end of the year. At the moment, the Parliament says it will vote on this issue at its December 2010 plenary. A public debate during the Competitiveness Council in December 2009 revealed that, although member states broadly agree on the issue, there are still some outstanding points. Not all accept a need for “maximum harmonisation” of the EU’s internal market and discussions also focus on the interaction with national contract legislation. Some member states want to exclude financial services and real estate contracts from the proposal.
The directive aims to improve citizens’ confidence in shopping over the internet and in high streets across the EU by stipulating the requirement for businesses to provide clear information, introducing protective measures against late delivery and non-delivery, and regulating cooling off periods, repairs, replacements and guarantees (see
Finally, the Presidency will focus on the food safety and labelling proposal that the Commission tabled in December 2008. It expects to reach a “general approach” on the topic in June. n
Spain will push for first reading agreements on parts of the pharmaceutical package