EU chief calls for ‘European Health Union’ amid pandemic

Published September 16, 2020, 4:13 PM

by Agence France-Presse

The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, urged EU members to build a stronger health union on Wednesday, promising a biomedical research agency and a global summit.

European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen addresses her first state of the union speech during a plenary session at the European Union Parliament in Brussels on September 16, 2020. (Photo by JOHN THYS / AFP)

In her first annual State of the European Union address, von der Leyen said the coronavirus pandemic had underlined the need for closer cooperation. “The people of Europe are still suffering,” she said.

“For me, it is crystal clear -– we need to build a stronger European Health Union,” she said. “And we need to strengthen our crisis preparedness and management of cross-border health threats.”

Addressing MEPs in the European Parliament, von der Leyen said her commission would try to reinforce the European Medicines Agency and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

And she announced the creation of a new agency for biomedical advanced research and development, dubbed BARDA.

Then next year, she will work with Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and the Italian G20 presidency to convene a global health summit to learn and share the lessons of the coronavirus crisis.

“This will show Europeans that our Union is there to protect all,” she said.

Health policy remains the responsibility of EU member states and, while Brussels has tried to coordinate the bloc’s response to the epidemic, national lockdowns and border rules have varied widely.