We already work together in the European Union on many fronts. For example in the field of economy, migration and climate. But worry, that was always something for the Member States.
The corona crisis has shown that this is not always ideal. When every country has a different system, it is difficult to coordinate something centrally. While it is precisely this central coordination that can be desperately needed during a crisis, such as when purchasing vaccines.
No picture of drug shortages
During this crisis, for example, it was not possible to centrally monitor where there were shortages of medicines or respiratory equipment in Europe. And each country started closing its airspace on its own, so that travelers from countries with a lot of infections would no longer enter.
European leaders have therefore asked the European Commission to come up with proposals to improve things in the future. The Commission is now proposing to establish a health union so that in times of major health crises we can work together more and be better prepared for an epidemic.
Stress test for epidemic
For example, the Commission is considering better monitoring of the number of infections, carrying out stress tests to test whether countries are ready for an epidemic in the future and keeping an eye on medicine stocks to prevent shortages.
Member States should also start reporting how many hospital beds and healthcare personnel they have. And the European Commission wants to have the option to declare a medical ’emergency’, so that more central coordination can take place and ‘crisis-relevant products’ can be jointly developed, purchased or stored.
A separate committee must then determine whether such an emergency does indeed exist.
‘First building blocks’
In principle, the health union is therefore about crisis management. But the Commission would prefer to see this health union include more in the future. Today’s proposals are, according to the Commission, ‘the first building blocks’, as can be read in the explanatory memorandum.
“EU citizens see health as a priority and expect Europe to do more in this area. That is why all future care measures (from the EU, ed.) Will contribute to the goal of creating a European Health Union.”
Member States’ turn
But what lies today is just a proposal. It is also up to the Member States to say what they do and do not want to regulate centrally.
Prime Minister Rutte has previously indicated that he considers it important that there is European coordination in the field of testing and quarantine requirements, but that the introduction of corona measures is up to the member states.
Europe has ‘no added value’ in fighting an epidemic, he said.
“These plans are a first step, to fix the errors of the corona crisis. Then there was a late reaction, without consultation and each Member State took different measures. There was hardly any consultation or coordination,” says political reporter Fons Lambie.
In the special corona summits, government leaders have asked the Commission to come up with proposals.
“In The Hague, too, people want more coordination and cooperation. It is great that the ‘European Jaap van Dissels’ will consult more and that data will be exchanged, as can be heard at the Binnenhof. But it is not expected that Brussels will soon determine how the Dutch healthcare looks like or dictates which corona measures should be taken. “