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Brussels, 3 December 2004

Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer protection Council, 6-7 December

(Philip Tod, Gregor Kreuzhuber)

The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council will meet on 6 and 7 December. This memo deals only with the health issues on the agenda, a separate memo will address the employment and social policy issues.

Health issues

The Council will deal with all health points on Monday, 6 December.

Public debate on HIV/AIDS (PT)
Ministers will hold a public debate on HIV/AIDS, starting at 10:00. Markos Kyprianou, European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, will open the debate with a presentation of the Commission working paper on combating HIV/AIDS within the European Union and in its Neighbourhood (see IP/04/1076). Ministers will give their reaction to the Commission’s working paper and explore possible new areas for EU level action. Ministers are also likely to exchange information on new activities undertaken at national level to address the resurgence of the AIDS epidemic.

Health Claims made on foods (PT)

The Commission presented its proposal on Nutrition and Health Claims in July 2003 (see IP/03/1022). In the context of various activities to reduce the problem of obesity in Europe, Ministers will discuss a Progress Report on the claims proposal. The main focus of the discussion will be on the concept of nutrient profiles, the prohibition of certain claims and the use of languages when applying for authorisation of certain claims.

Zoonotic diseases (PT)

Ministers are expected to adopt Council conclusions inviting the Commission to propose a European Action Plan for zoonoses preparedness and control. At a ministerial dinner on avian influenza in February 2004, the Commission called for an integrated zoonoses strategy to tackle animal diseases that are or may become transferable to humans. This was followed up with the conference "European Response to Public Health Risks from Emerging Zoonotic Diseases" on 16-17 September 2004 in The Hague (see SPEECH/04/405).

Promoting medicines for children (GK)

Vice President Günter Verheugen will present a Commission proposal for a regulation on medicines for children. The proposal aims to improve the health of the children of Europe by ensuring the authorisation of medicines, specifically researched and developed to meet their therapeutic needs.

It follows extensive consultation and a detailed assessment of the impact of the proposed measures on all stakeholders. It is a balanced package of measures that will ensure medicines are developed for children through the stimulation of innovation by the European pharmaceutical industry (see IP/04/1150).

Influenza pandemic preparedness (PT)

Over lunch ministers will discuss influenza preparedness planning. During the 20th century there were three pandemics caused by highly infective and deadly flu strains. The most severe of these was the pandemic of “Spanish flu” in 1918-1920 which killed an estimated 40 million people worldwide. A Commission working paper on how the EU could help strengthen Europe’s defences against a future pandemic was approved by EU health ministers in June (see MEMO/04/128). The Commission will report on progress made since then in coordinating national preparedness plans and strengthening the laboratory capacity available to deal with a pandemic. It will also report on talks with the pharmaceutical industry about ensuring availability of vaccines and anti-virals to deal with the therapeutic needs in the event of a pandemic.

Other business (PT)

Healthcare in an ageing society: The Presidency will report on the outcome of their informal health council in Noordwijk, which considered issues of how to adapt healthcare systems to the impact of demographic ageing.

Health Care Services: The Commission will present a report on work of the High Level Group on Healthcare and Medical Services, a committee of senior Member State officials established by the Commission earlier this year (see IP/04/508). The report reviews progress made on the wide range of issues identified by the EU’s patient mobility reflection process (see IP/03/1678) and proposes areas for further work over the coming years.

Vitamins and minerals: The Commission will report on progress made by the Council working group examining a new EU law to establish common rules on the addition of minerals and vitamins to food. This law was proposed by the Commission in November 2003 (see IP/03/1516).

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC): This new EU agency designed to strengthen Europe’s defences against infectious diseases is due to become operational in May 2005 (see IP/04/190). The Commission will report on progress in starting up the agency. A first meeting of the ECDC’s Management Board was held in Stockholm, the seat of the new agency, in September (see: MEMO/04/227). The next Management Board meeting, planned for 13 – 14 December, is due to nominate a Director for the agency on the basis of a shortlist proposed by the Commission.

International Health Regulations (IHR): In 2004, the WHO launched a proposal for updating and revising the IHR, calling for their scope to be substantially increased to cover all public health emergencies of international concern. The Commission has a mandate to negotiate on this issue on behalf of the EU and will report to ministers on progress.

A final version of the revised IHR is expected to be agreed at the WHO’s World Health Assembly in May 2005.

EU Action Plan on Environment and Health. The Presidency will report on the conclusions of the joint Presidency / Commission conference, held on 2/3 December 2004, on the implementation of this action plan.

Drugs Strategy 2005-2012. The Presidency will inform the Council that the final version of the text of this strategy new will be adopted by the forthcoming European Council.

EU Health Strategy. The Commission will report the results of the reflection process held on this subject (see IP/04/1290) with a view to establish a new health strategy for Europe in the near future.

Tobacco. The Commission will draw ministers’ attention to the recently published report “Tobacco or Health in the European Union: past, present and future”. This was written by a consortium of public health experts and financed by the European Commission. It is available at:

Commissioner Kyprianou will also urge Member States to conclude their ratification procedures for the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control as soon as possible.

Alcohol. The Commission will report on progress in developing an EU alcohol strategy. The Commission plans to launch a public consultation on this subject in early 2005.

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