Council adds new building blocks to European Health Union

The Council adopted two regulations to improve the EU’s capacities to respond to future pandemics and other cross-border health crises.

A revision of a “cross-border threats to health” law updates national reporting requirements as regards health system indicators and streamlines cooperation between member states, the European Commission and EU agencies.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) – the EU agency tasked with supporting the EU in its efforts to fight infectious diseases – has been strengthened in the areas of surveillance, early warning, preparedness and response.

Cross-border health threats are a new reality. Good cooperation at European level is key to better preparing ourselves for such situations. Improving prevention is vital in order to protect EU citizens in the event of an outbreak of a disease or a pandemic. I am sure that the regulations adopted today will help us to share information, work together and react more effectively.

Vlastimil Válek, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Health of Czechia

New rules on cross-border threats to health

The new cross-border threats to health legislation provides for the establishment of an EU health crisis and pandemic plan which will include provisions on exchange of information between EU and national level. Member states, when drawing up their national plans, will liaise with each other and the Commission to seek coherence with this EU level ‘prevention, preparedness and response plan’.

A health security committee will support coordinated actions by the Commission and member states for the implementation of the cross-border threats to health regulation. The committee can adopt opinions and issue guidance on response measures for the prevention and control of serious cross-border threats to health.

Other measures:

  • the Commission can, based on expert opinions such as those issued by a special Advisory Committee, declare a public health emergency at EU level. The Advisory Committee – composed of relevant independent experts, including healthcare representatives, social care workers and civil society representatives – will help with the formulation of response measures
  • the Commission will facilitate stress tests to ensure the operation of the EU prevention, preparedness and response plan and update the plan as necessary
  • based on input from member states, the Commission will draft reports on EU member state preparedness and response planning and implementation at national level. An overview of the recommendations of the report will be made public
  • the Commission and member states may engage in joint procurement procedures for the purchase of medical countermeasures

Stronger European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control

The updated mandate for the ECDC agency includes the creation of an EU Health Task Force to assist local responses to the outbreak of diseases, the provision of expertise to EU member states and the European Commission, for instance in the development, examination and updating of preparedness plans. The ECDC will also be tasked with the development of digital platforms for epidemiological surveillance.

Background and next steps

The regulations are directly applicable in all member states and will enter into force on the 20th day following that of its publication in the EU’s official journal.

The updated ECDC mandate and the revised cross-border threats to health laws are part of a broader European Health Union package. This was put forward by the European Commission on 11 November 2020. A regulation to strengthen the European Medicines Agency was already adopted on 25 January 2022. A fourth element of the European Health Union package, a Council regulation on the emergency framework regarding medical countermeasures, was also adopted today.