Health Ministers met on 22 June in Luxembourg for the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs (EPSCO) Council. I represented the UK.
The Council agreed a partial general approach on the proposal for a regulation on establishing the health for growth programme 2014-20, the third successive public health programme. The Commission and some member states preferred approach was not reflected in the text on the table, particularly the amended title and measures around differential co-financing. However, with one exception, all member states supported the partial general approach. The UK lifted its parliamentary scrutiny reserve and supported the proposal, stressing that the negotiation of sectoral programmes should not be prejudicial to the wider negotiations on the multi-annual financial framework.
There was an orientation debate on the draft decision on serious cross-border threats to health. Most member states, including the UK, agreed with the presidency’s proposal to delete the article giving the Commission power to introduce common temporary health measures to contain serious health threats. There was also broad consensus that the co-ordination of response planning was primarily an issue for member states, and best achieved through the Health Security Committee, without any need for binding measures.
Council conclusions on combating antimicrobial resistance were adopted without comment.
Under any other business (AOB), the presidency ran through the achievements in the field of health under their presidency, touching upon the conclusion of discussions between the Council and the European Parliament on proposals concerning pharmacovigilance, and on the presidency’s conclusion that it would not be possible to make further progress on the information to patients proposal. The Commission drew delegations’ attention to their communication on the innovation partnership on active and health ageing, and gave an overview of its contents. France presented two AOB points (the first jointly with Luxembourg) on the safeguarding of the supply of raw materials for pharmaceuticals, and on the MEDICRIME convention.
Finally, there was a lunchtime debate on the joint procurement of medical countermeasures in response to major outbreaks of communicable diseases (such as a pandemic flu). Some member states were reserved in indicating whether they intended to participate in such a programme, and whether it should be extended to facilitate the procurement of non-emergency countermeasures. The UK maintained that it did not intend to participate in a joint procurement exercise at this stage.