Grandstand. Europe became the epicenter of the Covid-19 epidemic in March 2020. Many observers then deplored its helplessness in the face of the health threat and the absence of mechanisms to harmonize the response of States to the community level. This statement of failure prompted President Macron to advocate for the creation of a “Health Europe” invested with health security missions. According to him, this Europe has “Never existed”, because “Health competence is not community competence”.
These remarks testify to a partial ignorance of the role of the European Union (EU) in the field of health. It is too often overlooked that it has limited public health jurisdiction, aimed at preventing health risks and protecting the health of populations. “Health Europe” that the French president is calling for already exists (in part). Faulted at the start of the crisis, it then intervened in the management of the epidemic, by activating each of its three levers, or “pillars”.
European health policy is based on three pillars, which we have analyzed in a recent book (Everything you always wanted to know about European Union health policies but were afraid to ask, European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, 2019). The first is Article 168 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which gives the EU a health security mission. Health remains the responsibility of states, but “The action of the Union (…) complements national policies “ and the EU “Encourages cooperation between states” in public health.
Direct impact on the lives of Europeans
The very title of Article 168 – “Public health” – in itself sums up the European health paradigm, since it is a question of orienting Community health policies towards population measures, aimed at protecting the health of nationals not to reform national health systems.
Europe thus has health security agencies, including the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), fully mobilized during the Covid crisis. 19 to disseminate reliable data and prevent drug shortages.
“The Union has health security agencies, fully mobilized during the Covid-19 crisis”
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