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Brussels, 9 November 2011

Q&A: Health and Consumer Programmes 2014-2020

Health for Growth

1. Why a new health programme?

Promoting health is an integral part of the smart and inclusive growth objectives of Europe Strategy 2020. Supporting Member States action on health is also a key component of the EU mandate as set in the Treaty.

In addition, Member States have asked the European Commission to put forward a proposal for a new programme that further complements and supports their action on health after the current Health Programme comes to an end in 2013.

The Health for Growth Programme will therefore support Member States when they cannot act alone or where co-ordination at EU level provides added value and synergies.

2. How does the "Health for Growth" programme compare with the current health programme?

The Health for Growth programme is better oriented towards how health can contribute to growth and to the objectives of Europe 2020; in particular as regards employment, innovation, sustainability. This programme is much more focused on key issues where EU action can deliver added value and make a difference.

The Health for Growth programme will give greater support to Member States to help them achieve innovative and sustainable health systems. As such, it will promote the uptake of innovation for health systems' reform, for example, through Health Technology Assessment (HTA) and eHealth solutions.

Co-operation on HTA will lead to optimal sharing of information on the effectiveness of health technologies, such as medicines, medical devices, interventions and preventive measures to support decision-making on health at national level.

The programme also aims to establish European Reference Networks as foreseen in the EU Directive on Patients' Rights in Cross-border Healthcare, to empower patients and professionals to identify, access, and disseminate best practices for improving the quality and safety of care.

The implementation and management of the new programme will be simplified for example through electronic applications and smaller number of projects and actions. Dissemination of results will be improved so that Member States and the health community can make better use of them.

3. What are the priority objectives of the programme?

Objective 1:

To contribute to the creation of innovative and sustainable health systems. Action will develop tools and mechanisms at EU level to address shortages of human and financial resources, to facilitate uptake of innovation in healthcare through HTA and eHealth, expertise on healthcare reforms and support to the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing. Action under the programme will also contribute to forecasting demand for health professionals and help Member States secure a solid health workforce.

Objective 2:

To increase access to better and safer healthcare for all EU citizens. Action will aim at increasing access to medical expertise and information for specific conditions; developing solutions and guidelines to improve the quality of healthcare and patient safety through actions supporting patients' rights in cross-border healthcare, rare diseases, prudent use of antibiotics and high standards of quality and safety for organs and substances of human origin used in medicine.

Objective 3:

To promote good health and prevent diseases by addressing the key risk factors of most diseases, namely smoking, alcohol abuse and obesity. This will involve fostering the identification and dissemination of best practices for cost-effective prevention measures; as well as specific action aimed at preventing chronic diseases including cancer.

Objective 4:

To protect people from cross-border health threats. Action will contribute towards developing common approaches for better preparedness coordination in health emergencies, for example, improving risk assessment capacity and joint procurement of medical countermeasures.

4. How much will be allocated to each objective?

The largest proportion of the budget - 48% - will be dedicated to helping Member States achieve innovative and sustainable health systems (objective 1). This is important to support the reforms needed to improve the cost-efficiency and long-term sustainability of health systems. Such reforms are key to enabling health systems to address the growing demand for healthcare generated by the ageing population and to continue providing healthcare to their citizens for generations to come.

Similar shares of the budget will be allocated to increase access to better and safer healthcare (objective 2) and to promote good health and prevent diseases (objective 3) – respectively 22% and 21%. Finally, 9% of the budget will be dedicated to protect people from cross-border health threats (objective 4).

5. What is the budget of the new Health Programme and how will it be funded?

The budget of the new Health Programme is €446 million (in current prices) for 2014-2020.

As it is the case with the current health programme, it will be funded through:

  • Grants for action co-financed by the competent authorities responsible for public health in the Member States (so called "joint actions") and with international health organisations.

  • Grants to support NGOs working in the area of public health who play an effective role in civil dialogue processes at EU level and contribute to at least one of the specific objectives of the programme.

  • Procurement contracts.

In most cases, the grants will contribute 60% of the costs of the action/project. This figure rises to 80% in exceptional cases, such as for Member States with a low Gross National Income participating in joint actions.

6. How will the programme support the Europe 2020 Strategy? How will it help fight the effects of the financial crisis in the public health sector across the EU?

Health is not just a value in itself. Only a healthy population can achieve its full economic potential. The health sector is driven by innovation and a highly qualified workforce. It is one of the largest economic sectors in the EU and accounts for around 10% of the EU's Gross Domestic Product. The health care sector employs one in 10 workers, many of them with a very high level of education.

Health therefore plays an important role in the Europe 2020 agenda. The new health programme is an important part of the strategy. It emphasizes the potential of the health sector as a driver for economic growth and a generator of jobs. More than ever before, it will support innovation in health systems to ensure a healthier population, more efficient and sustainable health systems, as well as more sustainable and inclusive growth.

7. Who will be the main beneficiaries?

Potential candidates for funding are national health authorities, as well as public and private bodies, international organisations and NGOs with a general interest in health at EU level and which support the programme's specific objectives.

The Programme is open to all EU Member States, EFTA/EEA countries, countries acceding to the EU, candidate countries and potential candidates, as well as countries covered by the European Neighbourhood Policy, as long as membership of the programme remains in accordance with the conditions of their bilateral or multilateral agreements.

Consumer Programme

1. What are the main objectives of the Consumer Programme?

The Consumer Programme will support EU consumer policy in the years to come, contributing to the objective of placing consumers at the centre of the Single Market. The key principle is to empower consumers to participate actively in the market and make it work for them in a way which protects their safety and economic rights and interests, in particular by:

  • Reinforcing and enhancing product safety through effective market surveillance;

  • Improving consumers' information, education and awareness of their rights, working closely in partnership with Member States;

  • Consolidating consumer rights and strengthening effective redress, especially through alternative dispute resolution mechanisms;

  • Strengthening enforcement cross-border by enhancing co-operation between national enforcement bodies and by supporting consumers with advice.

Evidence base and research confirm that these priorities are the right way forward for consumer policy and are in keeping with the EU 2020 agenda.

2. Why do we need a new Consumer Programme at EU level?

"Confident consumers create thriving markets".1

More than ever, in the current economic climate, consumers need and have the right to be protected against physical and economic harm. More than ever, well-informed and knowledgeable consumers can drive innovation and growth by demanding value, quality and service. More than ever businesses which respond will benefit most. New needs have appeared as a consequence of the economic crisis and new ways of shopping, such as e-commerce and digital services. Consumer information also needs to keep apace with developments in the markets such as liberalisation of markets (for example in energy or telecommunications).

The current program ends at the end of 2013 and a new program is necessary to continue work in four key areas:


In the field of safety, actions at EU level and cooperation through the General Product Safety Directive (GPSD) network delivers better results than a series of individual actions by Member States since it fills information gaps and avoids disparities in the Single Market. Better coordination also enables the enforcement network to more efficiently address risks resulting from the supply chain spanning the globe.

Information and education

Consumer markets monitoring helps to identify weaknesses in national markets and Single Market obstacles that could be removed to improve innovation and competition. The data gathered can be used not only at EU but also at national level, thereby delivering some EU-scale efficiency gains and enabling Member States' benchmarking.

Support for strong and coherent representation from the consumer movement at EU level enables consolidated consumer input into EU policy-making. Capacity-building for national consumer organisations is especially useful for organisations in the new Member States.

EU consumer information and education initiatives increase consumer knowledge and confidence in cross-border transactions, thus supporting the completion of the Single Market. They facilitate best practice sharing between Member States and will contribute to the creation of a single, coherent and authoritative source of information and education at EU level.

Rights and redress

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) will offer a cheap, rapid and easy way of getting redress throughout the EU. The financing of a European platform for Online Dispute Resolution (ODR), which we envisage for the future, will lead to a co-ordinated approach, creating economies of scales and synergies.


The European Consumer Centres' network contributes to the completion of the Single Market by providing advice and support to consumers on cross-border issues, which national authorities and consumer organisations are most often not in a position to do. Coordinated joint enforcement actions with the Consumer Protection Cooperation (CPC) Network of national enforcement authorities such as the 'sweeps' are a very efficient way to tackle issues which have a cross-border EU dimension.

3. How big is the financial envelope?

The financial envelope is 197 millions euros over 7 years (approximately 25 million euros per year + inflation). This is a relatively small budget, used to support and complement national policies from the Member States. It has however a crucial role to play in supporting the following actions:

  • actions corresponding to legal obligations under the Treaty and existing EU acquis in the field of consumer policy (e.g. the maintenance and functioning of the EU rapid alert system for dangerous products2 , RAPEX, and the Consumer Protection Cooperation (CPC) Network of national enforcement authorities)

  • actions which due to their EU level character are not undertaken at national level or where EU action is more efficient than actions at national level (for instance, with regard to cross-border cases, operating the European Consumer Centres (ECC) Network, establishing and operating an On-line Dispute Resolution (ODR) platform )

  • actions complementing and enhancing the efficiency of actions at national level (e.g. co-ordinating and co-financing joint actions in the field of product safety and of consumer rights enforcement; supporting awareness raising campaigns on consumer issues; supporting training of national consumer organisations)

4. What are the main challenges to be addressed by the programme?

The main challenges can be grouped under the following four headings:

  • Safety. There is a need to reinforce coordination of national enforcement authorities, and to address the risks linked to the globalisation of the production chain. There is a growing demand on services safety, also in the context of the population aging, and a need to address the increased sensitivity of food safety issues;

  • Consumer information and education. There is a need: for comparable, reliable and user-friendly information for consumers particularly cross border; to address the issue of poor knowledge of key consumer rights by consumers and retailers alike; for robust data on how the market is serving consumers; for increased capacity of consumer organisations especially in some Member States; to improve the educational and information tools we use;

  • Consumer rights and effective redress there is a need to further strengthen consumer rights, in particular in cross-border situations, and to address problems faced by consumers when trying to secure redress, notably cross-border so that consumers are confident that their rights are well protected in any other Member State as well as at home;

  • Strengthening enforcement cross-border. There is a need to increase awareness about the ECC-Net (network of European Consumer Centres) among consumers and to further strengthen its effectiveness. The efficiency of the network of national enforcement authorities (CPC Network) also needs to be strengthened.

Furthermore, there is also a need to address the new societal challenges – the complexity of decision making for consumers, the need to move towards more sustainable patterns of consumption, addressing the opportunities and threats of digitalisation, the increase in social exclusion and vulnerable consumers, the ageing population.

5. Who will be the main beneficiaries?

The end beneficiaries of the Programme are European consumers, through the support offered by the Programme to consumer organisations at EU and national level, as well as Member States' national authorities in charge of product safety and enforcement with the overarching objective of improving the situation of consumers throughout the EU.

The Programme will also de facto benefit reputable businesses, as effective consumer policy supports the proper functioning of the Single Market, rewards the most competitive companies and drives out rogue operators.

Empowered consumers are drivers of innovation and consumer policy will therefore contribute to supporting innovative business.

Finally, economic operators will benefit from a level playing field based on clear rules and better coordinated enforcement. In this context, the Programme will contribute to stimulating economic growth.

6. How will the new Consumer Programme support the EU2020 Growth Strategy?

Every one of Europe's 500 million citizens is a consumer. Consumers drive Europe's economy and the Single Market. Their expenditure amounts to 56% of EU GDP and is a huge potential as a source of growth and innovation. The more consumers are able to make informed decisions, the greater the impact they can have on strengthening the Single Market and stimulating growth.

Well informed and knowledgeable consumers can drive innovation and growth by demanding value, quality and service. Businesses which respond to these demands will benefit most. This will help improve overall economic performance and meet the pressures of global challenges.

The Consumer Program is fully in line with the EU2020 objectives: the digital agenda - leading to increased consumer welfare; sustainable growth - moving towards sustainable consumption; social inclusion – taking into account vulnerable consumers and aging population; smart regulation – consumer market monitoring helping to design smart and targeted regulation.

7. How does the new programme differ from the previous one?

Consumer policy at EU level is a relatively young policy. Therefore, continuity with the current 2007-2013 Programme is important in order to have an impact. However, there is a need to address the specific issues and challenges mentioned above. There is also a need to take into account the pressure on resources in all Member States, to maximise efficiency through e.g. better coordination at EU level (for instance on market surveillance), and to support the completion of the Single Market by empowering consumers, especially when going cross-border physically or on-line.

See also IP/11/1317

1 :

European Commission President Barroso in the letter he sent to the President of the European Parliament, Mr Buzek on the occasion of his October 2011 State of the Union address.

2 :

EU rapid alert system for dangerous products - with the exception of food, pharmaceutical and medical devices, which are covered by other mechanisms

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