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SPEECH/ 09/415

Androulla Vassiliou

Member of the European Commission, responsible for Health

"Animals + Humans = One Health"

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

Opening Speech at the EU Veterinary Week Conference in Brussels

Brussels, 28 September 2009

Ladies and gentlemen ,

I am delighted to be with you today to open this conference which launches this year's EU Veterinary Week.

For the second year running we are organising this event together with the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe to promote the concept of "One health", as it is no secret that animal health affects human health.

Our partners this year also include the World Organisation for Animal Health, the World Health Organization, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their support.

In setting our future strategy, the greatest importance is attached to maintaining the highest possible level of health protection.

I hope that this week will serve as a platform for an exchange of views and information on the issues surrounding the concept of “One health” so that we can all work together, in partnership, to help improve animal and public health in the European Union.

The recent outbreaks of avian influenza have highlighted once more the link between animal and public health and the importance of veterinary and medical sectors working in a coordinated way.

Today's conference is an opportunity for you as representatives from the animal and public health sectors to come together and to discuss three diseases that exemplify the link between animal and human health: namely TSEs, influenza and rabies.

As regards TSEs, the European Union has made great strides in its battle against BSE. Different factors indicate a continuing favourable trend in the BSE epidemic. The clear improvement in the situation over the past years is testament to the strong, comprehensive measures put in place at EU level to tackle this disease.

Another disease that will be discussed this afternoon is influenza. I believe that, in view of the developing situation with regard to influenza A(H1N1), both in Member States and indeed, around the world, a debate on this topic is very important and timely for us.

Because of the limited time we have today and the importance of this disease, your discussions on this topic will be developed further during the conference we are organising on the 30 th of October in Brussels.

The conference is entitled "Influenza at the interface between humans and animals". I would like to take this opportunity to invite you all to attend this conference, which I will open together with the Swedish Minister for Health, Maria Larsson.

Rabies is the third disease that has been selected for this conference as today is also "World Rabies Day" and we feel it is important that Europeans are reminded of the threat that this disease can pose.

In the past decade, the European Commission has spent nearly 80 million Euros on actions to prevent humans and animals from catching rabies.

The results of these efforts have been spectacular as the number of reported rabies cases have been falling since the eighties. Thanks to these efforts, today, most of Europe is rabies free.

However, there remains the risk that rabies returns to Europe. Europeans can take measures to ensure that this does not occur by, for example, ensuring that their pets are vaccinated against rabies and have an EU pet passport when travelling in the European Union.

We have decided to communicate this message through a short video, which I would like to present to you today.

Ladies and gentlemen [only repeated if the video is shown at this point]

This year’s EU Veterinary Week will also see the launch of our consultation on the future EU Animal Health Law. We hope that this new Animal Health Law will provide a single, clearer regulatory framework for all EU animal health legislation and provide a coherent basis for all future EU actions concerning animal health.

The Animal Health Law will cover many different areas of interest to you, such as the role of veterinary services and animal keepers, intra-community trade, imports of animals and products, animal disease control, disease surveillance and many others.

In keeping with our "One health" campaign, I believe that these issues do not only concern those of you in the veterinary field, but also those of you working in public health.

It is for this reason that I strongly invite you all to take part in the consultation process.

Of course, cooperation is not confined to events taking place in Brussels. This is why our "One health" roadshow, which was launched during last year's Veterinary Week, has been travelling around Europe. I am proud to say that, so far, it has been a great success!

It has attended 25 fairs in 13 different Member States and I am pleased to say that it will continue to travel around Europe next year.

I am also delighted about the many national initiatives that are taking place this week and will continue in the coming months.

For this year's Veterinary Week, we have been able to count on the support of EU veterinary faculties and of their students. Thanks to their help, during this week many events will be taking place all over the EU to bring together veterinary and medical students to encourage them to work together to help achieve our goal of One health for all.

To mark their involvement we have, for the first time, put together an academic diary aimed specifically at EU veterinary students. These diaries are also included in your conference bags. I hope that they will help our veterinarians of the future to understand the important role they will play.

I would like to thank you all for coming to mark the start of EU Veterinary Week with us in Brussels today, which I hope will build on last year's success and will be repeated in the years ahead.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I count on your support, not only during this EU Veterinary Week, but also in the coming months, to continue the process of raising awareness to help us achieve our ambitious objectives for enhancing Animal Health in the EU.

Because, remember: Animals + Humans = One Health!

Thank you.

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