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As a matter of fact
In today's world of fast travelling to far-flung places, illnesses and contaminated products do not stop at national borders but can quickly spread around the globe within hours. The strain of human influenza A (H1N1), also known as "swine flu", is an example: In April 2009, the virus was first identified in Mexico and the United States but soon also affected all EU Member States. The pandemic caused 2 900 deaths in the 27 EU countries plus Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.
Human influenza H1N1 proved that EU Member States cannot act effectively alone when it comes to containing health threats. A comprehensive and consistent framework of health security is needed to mitigate serious health threats for Europe. The lessons learned have been instrumental in producing the Commission proposal for a Decision presented in this article.
The Lisbon Treaty – in force since December 2009 – empowers the European Union to take action to combat serious cross-border health threats at Union level and to complement national policies. The European Commission may take initiatives to promote coordination in close cooperation with the Member Sates (see Art. 6 and 168 TFEU).
The proposal adopted by the Commission is based on this legal context. It covers these cross-border health threats:
The proposal does not include radiological or nuclear threats as these are covered by the EURATOM Treaty.
It is built on these main measures for action:
Cross-border health threats can have serious economic consequences: The SARS virus, for example, affected more than 8000 people and caused more than 800 deaths in 2003 and 2004. The estimated loss of incomes ranges from US $ 12.3 to 28.4 billion. The economic losses due to avian influenza figure around US $ 10 billion from December 2003 until February 2006.
Each EU Member State is to set up a preparedness plan that describes what to do once a crisis strikes. As it is essential to mitigate the impact of a crisis from the beginning, each plan will include measures to improve access to vaccines and other medical countermeasures. Also, key elements such as crisis communication, inter-sectoral coordination, etc. will be defined. When drawing up the plans, Member States will respect guidelines put in place by the Commission, which will co-ordinate the process.
The proposal is to come into effect at the end of 2012 or in early 2013 as a Decision. Once entered into force, each EU Member State is to designate the competent authorities and contact points to put into place the measures of the proposal. Furthermore, Member States are to nominate their representative for the Health Security Committee as well as an alternate.
European Commission website on public health
European Commissioner Dalli's website
As a matter of fact
The European Union can only exist and prosper when citizens support the European idea and actively participate in building Europe as a common project. To ensure this support, EU citizens must know about Europe's past and they must feel a strong sense of ownership and belonging. Also, citizens need to understand how the European Union functions and which solutions and opportunities the EU offers.
The current ‘Europe for Citizens’ programme (2007-2013) is a crucial element to achieve these goals. Yet the programme comes to an end on 31 December 2013. In order to support citizens and civil society beyond 2013, the European Commission has proposed a new programme for the funding period 2014-2020.
At the end of 2010 and throughout 2011 a public consultation, focus group surveys and stakeholder meetings took place. The new programme takes into account experience and suggestions for better practice submitted by citizens, public authorities and civil society organisations at these events.
In June 2011, the Commission adopted the multiannual financial framework for 2014-2020. Under this multiannual spending plan €229 million (in current prices) are set aside to finance the "Europe for Citizens" programme 2014 - 2020. The programme offers a new architecture. It is built on two thematic strands:
- "Remembrance and European citizenship"
- "Democratic engagement and civic participation"
"Remembrance and European citizenship" is about supporting activities that, for example, commemorate victims of Nazism and Stalinism or that promote tolerance. The overall goal is to foster understanding for Europe's past and the history of European integration.
"Democratic engagement and civic participation" is about strengthening citizens' understanding of how EU policies are made in today's political system. The central aim is to link actions with the European political agenda and to enable citizens to participate in the EU's democratic processes. Under this theme a number of think-tanks and civil society organisation can receive financial support. Moreover, a variety of projects can be funded, such as citizens' meetings, civil society projects and networking of towns engaged in twinning.
The programme will be open to organisations that work in the area of European integration and that have a transnational dimension. These can include think tanks, citizens’ groups and organisations involved in European remembrance. In this regard there is no change to the current programme.
To date, the current programme reaches more than 1 million European citizens per year. By December 2013 it will have supported more than 9,000 projects through grants and operational support at local, regional and European level.
Every organisation already participating today can also apply in the future. These organisations can be from the EU Member States, from the European Economic Area or from the candidate and potential candidate countries. The participating non-EU countries must fulfil the general principles and conditions of taking part in EU funding programmes.
Following adoption by the European Commission this week, the proposal will be transmitted to the EU institutions and the national parliaments. The draft needs to be approved by the European Council with the consent of the European Parliament. The final decision is expected in spring 2013. The current ‘Europe for Citizens’ programme comes to an end on 31 December 2013. The new programme will enter into force the next day, on 1st January 2014.
European Commission website on "Europe for Citizens" programme 2007 – 2013
Press pack on the European Commission's multiannual financial framework
European Commission website of DG Communication
Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship http://ec.europa.eu/reding