The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council met on 8 December in Brussels. For the health part of the meeting, the UK was represented by the Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU. The meeting featured one substantive item about the European semester and health, and a number of other items as part of the “any other business” section of the agenda.
On the topic of the European semester, the UK stressed member state competence and the importance of maintaining a narrow focus for the semester. Regarding the involvement of Health Ministers in discussions about the semester, the UK stated that it had no objection to focused discussions, although added that Health Ministers are already engaged through national co-ordination. Discussions about this issue will continue under the Maltese presidency.
Under the AOB part of the agenda, the UK presented on the candidacy of Dr David Nabarro for Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO). The UK emphasised Dr Nabarro’s UN experience—including on cholera, food security and sustainable development—and stressed that he has demonstrated a reform-minded approach and is committed to transforming organisational effectiveness. The UK stated that he had the backing of the Prime Minister and chief medical officer.
On antimicrobial resistance (AMR), the UK stressed the importance of keeping up momentum following the recent agreement of a declaration on AMR at the UN General Assembly, and outlined areas where work needed to be focused; including on research and innovation, the development of new products, on implementing national action plans and on benchmarking.
There were also discussions on alcohol, about the production of paediatric medicines, and about follow-up work relating to Council conclusions on pharmaceuticals. The EU Commission provided an update on European reference networks, as well as feedback about the report “State of Health in the EU”, which it has jointly published with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. There was also an update about the discussions held at the recent conference of the parties to the WHO framework convention on tobacco control.
Finally, there were updates about recent conferences, and Malta provided an overview of priorities for its presidency, commencing on 1 January.