The health part of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs (EPSCO) Council met on 21 June 2013 in Luxembourg. I represented the UK.
After considerable discussion and changes to the proposed text to address concerns of member states, including the United Kingdom, the Council agreed a general approach to the tobacco products directive. The UK secured a number of key changes to address UK policy priorities including: the ability to maintain picture warnings on all types of smoked tobacco; a more flexible approach to cross-border distance sales; adequate freedom for member states to take forward domestic public health policies in certain key areas, aiming for a higher level of health protection where this is justified. The UK supported the general approach. Four member states were not able to support the general approach.
The presidency provided progress reports on negotiations on the clinical trials regulation and the medical devices regulations.
Under any other business, the presidency provided information about the proposal for a decision on serious cross-border threats to health, the drugs action plan, the importation of active pharmaceutical products, the cross-border healthcare directive, the transparency directive and middle east respiratory syndrome coronavirus.
In the margins of the meeting I discussed the UK’s front-of-pack labelling scheme for food with Commissioner Borg and the Italian Minister, emphasising the voluntary nature of the recommendation.