Speech by Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis, Minister of Health, at the European Parliament, Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee

12 July 2013, Last updated at, 14:50 EEST
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V.P. Andriukaitis | author: eu2013.lt

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Chairman, Honorable Members of the European Parliament and of this Committee,

I am very honored to address you today to present the Lithuanian Presidency programme in the field of health. 2013 marks the 9th anniversary of Lithuania’s accession to the European Union and this is first time of our Presidency.

We congratulate the common work done by the European Parliament and Irish presidency, Honorable members of the Committee, especially agreement on Multiannual financial perspective, Common agriculture policy reform, programs Horizon 2020, Erasmus +, LIFE + and other legislation. We are ready to continue this work together with you to achieve the results important for all EU citizens.

Our Presidency goals could be achieved only working together with European Parliament and maintaining the positive and dynamic spirit during remaining half a year. Taking care of wellbeing of European citizens will inspire them to be active in the coming elections of European Parliament.

Our membership of the European Union has brought many benefits to Lithuanian citizens both in economic and social terms. We hope our Presidency in this year announced as Year of health promotion in Lithuania will bring benefits not only for Lithuanian but for the EU citizens as well.

We face different global challenges often of unprecedent scale during this period and should look for new ways to build up health policy at EU level because of the capacities of Member States and their health systems alone to deal with these new issues are not sufficient. We need to look for new solutions during the new financial perspective also because of complicated economic financial situation in order to assure the sustainability of health systems and right of EU citizens to health care.

Different threats arise from outside EU and common coordinated EU actions and speaking one voice at global level become more and more important. The good example of successful collaboration is a WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control which is the first international agreement in the health field signed and ratified by the EU and it’s Member States. The EU health strategy comes to the end this year. We need therefore to look for new strategies, ways and measures, including legislation, to make and strengthen health policy at EU level and thus build up reliable, growing and open Europe.

Honorable Members of Parliament, the European Parliament always was the driver for progress and actively defends EU citizens interests. The opinion and support of the European Parliament for the future shaping of health policy important for EU citizens is crucial. You are directly elected representatives of the citizens of the EU your role as co-legislators is crucial to ensure that their interests are properly represented. Lithuanian Presidency fully recognizes the importance of engaging with the European Parliament especially at the end of this legislation cycle and the importance of effective cooperation of the Institutions.

By working together at Council according to TRIO Irish, Lithuanian and Greek presidency programme and with you in the European Parliament, we will seek to assure continuity of work and to adopt or making solid progress on a number of key legislative dossiers in health – proposals on tobacco products, clinical trials, medical devices and others which I will present later.

The main Lithuanian health policy priority for the Presidency is the drafting and adopting of Council conclusions on the modern, responsive and sustainable health systems. I would like to stress that according to Health in All policies principles health systems should be understood in much broader political, economic and social context and not only healthcare. The right to health care is very important social right of citizens. The health systems policy is the new territory for the European Union and the new opportunities for EU citizens which should not be missed. The participation of European Parliament in this process and possibility of exchange of ideas looking for health policy solutions will allow better use these opportunities.

The finalization of political reflection process, which started back in 2010, is now expected during Lithuanian Presidency. We actively discussed this topic during the Informal Council of Ministers in Vilnius.

So Council conclusions expected to be adopted at December should be based on these main points:

  1. health in the context of the Europe 2020 strategy and the European Semester;
  2. success factors for the effective use of Structural Funds for investments in health;
  3. efficient use of medicines;
  4. models of integrated care and the better hospital management;
  5. measuring and monitoring the effectiveness of investments in health.

The 2013 Annual Growth Survey recommends reforming health systems the indicators of which are already included into the European Semester to ensure their cost-effectiveness and sustainability and assessing their performance against the twin aims of providing access to high-quality healthcare and using public resources including European structural funds more efficiently.

However, it is crucial that health sector wasn’t, isn’t and cannot be only the non creating value expenditure and becomes an acknowledged contributor of economic growth. Health is a value in itself and also a precondition for economic prosperity.
Moreover, the health sector has great potential to create new jobs to reduce unemployment and thus financial and psychological stress later in life. Investing in reducing health inequalities contributes to social cohesion and breaks the vicious spiral of poor health contributing to, and resulting from, poverty and exclusion.

The health sector is driven by innovation in pharmaceuticals, medical devices, medical technologies and services, innovating how health care is organized and structured, how resources are used, how systems are financed.

The health sector in general, including the pharmaceutical sector, is leading as regards the share of resources used for R&D. Research in health is contributing to the flourishing of science and maintaining the role of Europe as a leader of global technological progress which is very important for being competitive in the age of knowledge-based economy.

The improving of population health literacy, access to high quality information and implementation of shared decisions are all vital elements in making health systems more sustainable. Residents are the patients as well as taxpayers and voters and their satisfaction is a key factor in the sustainability of the system. Given the free movement of inhabitants within the European Union it is also important for the patients to use the full potential of cross-border health care foreseen by the appropriate Directive 24/2011/EU and properly address the problems of organization and financing of cross-border health care.

The cooperation of European Parliament and EU Council is crucial for the progress of legislation especially at the end of legislation cycle. I am already a ninth representative of the Presidency of the Council in front of you. And I know well that we have only four months left for successful work together with you. The period of holidays is necessary as health resource to finish successfully the heavy agenda left. Thus, it is a Presidency resource, However, the concrete agenda requires us to be effective, to exclude the non essential points and to try to reach the goals defined.

Let me, Honorable Members of Parliament, now to present you our plans related to most important legislation proposals which I have presented earlier as very important EU health policy making legislative measures.

  • Tobacco

Let me first congratulate you with good job done on Tobacco directive and Rapporteur Linda Mc Avan with excellent report.
The general approach reached during Irish Presidency is very important step before adoption of this very important Directive.
When European Health Ministers met in Vilnius just before we had an opportunity to review progress in this policy area and discuss what more needs to be done to protect the young people from the harmful effect of tobacco smoking in particular implementing mentioned above WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. I am deeply persuaded that European Union should lead globally not only implementing this Convention but also protecting the society from this especially dangerous harmful for health factor.

Honorable Members of Parliament, my duty as of health minister and of Chairman of this Ministers Council is to ensure that young people would not start to smoke and others to drop or reduce smoking. That is why I count very much on your understanding and support Honorable Members of Parliament seeking common agreement on this legal act and big number of votes during plenary debates. We are ready to work together with you by seeking this common goal. It is foreseen a trialogue I believe should be successful and I hope successful first reading will follow, I believe this should be successful.

I know that the negotiations on Tobacco Products are difficult because of influential tobacco industry lobbying but many non-governmental organizations at the EU and big part of the voters support those measures on tobacco control or even stricter regulation. The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control also obliges us to implement more active tobacco control measures. The Socrates thought that “Health is not everything but everything without health is nothing” inspires us and our TRIO partners Greece.
Working together in the Council and with you, Members of Parliament, I believe we could adopt this very important Tobacco directive and be able better contain one of the most important factor harmful for health of Europeans and to protect our young people and our children.

  • Clinical Trials of pharmaceuticals

This legal act is particularly important for better competitiveness of EU at global level by encouraging of research and innovations and maintaining a strong pharmaceutical industry and more clinical trials in Europe and seeking better access of drugs for EU citizens.

However, there are discussions ongoing on certain issues concerning the transparency requirements, the involvement of ethical committees in the process of authorization of clinical trials, protection of vulnerable subjects and the rational well balanced solution is needed to implement the very important goals of Regulation.

Lithuania aims to reach general approach or to make significant progress on the proposal seeing that most Member States and the European Parliament are interested in reaching common agreement on this very important issue. I am particularly grateful to Rapporteur Glenis Willmott and other Members of Parliament for their letter concerning this Regulation addressed for me and would like to assure that we are ready to work hard together with you by continuing the work of our Irish colleagues and seeking maximum progress on this important legal act. We hope Parliament also makes it’s work by seeking agreement on this legal act during first reading.

  • Medical Devices

The Presidency is also committed to making progress on two proposals for regulations on Medical Devices and In-Vitro Diagnostic

The proposals are complex, need to be discussed properly by experts but I believe it is possible to make good progress during the Lithuanian Presidency. We will together with the Rapporteur, Dagmar Roth-Behrendt and also Shadow Rapporteur Mairead McGuinness as well as with the Rapportuer on the In Vitro proposal , Dr Peter Liese.

  • Other legislation

The proposal of Decision on cross-border health threats is also important.
Lithuanian Presidency will continue Irish Presidency work and seeks to adopt it as only the formal voting is left. We are grateful for European Parliament for their constructive position and support for this legal act.

Third Health for Growth Programme for the new period of financial perspective is important for further health policy implementation during the new financial period and should be approved. We will seek to solve remaining questionable issues and have started to work on with European Parliament and European Commission in order to approve the Programme.

Discussions continue on so called transparency (of including of medicines to the reimbursement system, of pricing etc.) Directive. The possible progress will depend first of all on how many Member States would support the compromise proposal.

Honorable Members of Committee, let me briefly introduce other events of our Presidency programme, where I would like cordially invite you to participate.

  • Presidency events

Reflecting the importance of mental health problems as each fourth European suffers from them, the Presidency will host a high level Mental Health Conference which will take place in Vilnius in October. The Mental Health high level conference will take place on 10 and 11th October, 2013. The high level theme of this year’s event will be “Mental Health: challenges and possibilities”. We have discussed this topic recently during the Informal health Council in Vilnius devoting particular attention to the wellbeing of older people and mental health aspects which are especially actual in the context of ageing society. Discussions on the topic will be continued also at the conference.

The Health forum “Sustainable health systems for sustainable development” will be organized in Vilnius on November 19-20 where the efficiency and sustainability of health systems as well as opportunities to cooperate in assessing of adopted Cross-border health care directive, evaluating possibilities for cross-border regions and in establishing reference centres will be also discussed.

Honorable Members of Parliament, I thank you all for your kind attention. I very much welcome this opportunity to brief you on the priorities of the Lithuanian Presidency in the health area and, indeed, to answer your questions.

I believe that given the importance to European citizens of the questions presented, this is the important programme for the Presidency. Our common work is extremely important both for the health and wellbeing of Europeans and to support the solidary and responsible Europe by increasing of competitiveness of Europe, job creation and social inclusion in wide sense. I look forward to working with you in a constructive manner to progress the health agenda and making more effective EU health policy.

Thank you.

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