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SPEECH/ 09/423

José Manuel Dur ã o Barroso

P resident of the European Commission

Launch of the European Partnership for Action Against Cancer

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

European Partnership for Action Against Cancer

Brussels , 29 September 2009

Your Royal Highness,

Commissioner, Dear Androulla,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like first to thank Androulla Vassiliou and her team for having given me the opportunity to make today the open statement to this event.

We are here today to launch what promises to be a unique effort, as we join forces to fight a disease which could, in one way or another, affect us all. Unique, because it is the first of its kind to bring together everyone concerned in one partnership, in the struggle to save lives and help those who suffer.

Cancer is the second most common cause of death in Europe. We can do something about this. And we can do this best by working together.

When I set out my vision for the European Union recently, I emphasised that Europe must put people at the heart of its agenda. Last June, the European Commission did just this, when it set out its goal of supporting Member States in their efforts to tackle cancer by proposing the Partnership we are launching today; such efforts should result in a reduction of the burden of cancer by 15% by 2020.

This is an ambitious target. But it is achievable, if we work together.

We have the building blocks, the dynamism of our economy, the innovation of our scientists, the capacity for research, the solidarity of our communities, and the collective strength of our partnership.

At the moment, our focus is on the immediate consequences of the economic crisis. The Commission is playing a key role in helping Europe to emerge stronger from this crisis, and better prepared for the future. In doing so, it is essential that we maintain a clear vision of our longer-term potential.

In that context, the health sector will be a key issue in the coming years.

On a human level, think of the contribution of all those people that we might save from cancer through this partnership. If we in Europe achieve our goal of reducing the burden of cancer by 15% by 2020, that means around half a million fewer cancer cases.

What might those involved in the partnership provide? Our greatest resource in Europe is the people of Europe. We are world leaders in cancer research and development. Cancer research has been a clear priority of the European Commission for more than twenty years. Next year alone, we plan to invest €100 million in cancer research.

Our ambitions for this partnership go even further. We will work with all funders to bring together research budgets from both public and private sectors, as an example of truly innovative co-ordination.

An important target is to secure a properly co-ordinated approach for one-third of cancer research from all funding sources by 2013. This will represent about €1.5 billion of funds, invested in smart ways to maximise the benefits for cancer research. In this way, we make the best use of our money to defeat cancer as quickly as possible.

We will also work in prevention by providing information and helping Member States in screening programmes; by indentifying and disseminating good practices.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Across Europe, we share a commitment to universal access to high-quality healthcare. We have excellent medical expertise in areas dealing with all aspects of the disease, and well established support for patients.

As I said when I set out my future vision to the European Parliament earlier this month, a just society is one that takes care of its vulnerable members. Of course, the primary responsibility for investing in health systems - and indeed for health overall - remains with the Member States. Bu t we also have a role to play.

Take rare cancers for example. Only a handful of specialist centres exist for such cancers in the whole of Europe. So we are already putting in place European reference networks, so that everyone can have access to that expertise.

We have also proposed legal measures to safeguard patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare.

And we have opened up the potential for the Structural Funds to support investment in the health infrastructure of the future, so that people can have access to excellent healthcare wherever they live.

I believe that our experience of European integration over nearly sixty years is a key strength for us in meeting the challenges that lie ahead, including combating cancer. We have a unique capacity and unique means to bring people from different places, with different perspectives, to work together.

So this partnership is a new initiative that builds on a distinctively European strength. We are bringing together not just our traditional institutional partners in the Member States, but also patients, health professionals, scientists, private industry, civil society - everyone who shares our objective of a partnership against cancer.

European institutions can provide a focus in bringing people together. The success of this partnership will depend on all those concerned making their own contribution to our shared goal of reducing the burden of cancer in Europe.

I believe that we can be pioneers in the fight against cancer. As we face the challenges not just of cancer, but of long-term growth and ageing societies more generally, our European commitment to health is now shown to be a key asset for the 21st century.

This makes me confident that this European Partnership for Action against Cancer can make a real difference. And by taking action in this way, we will not only set an example for the world to follow. We will be making a difference to countless families across Europe.

So let me assure you that the European Commission will not only provide the necessary leadership for this effort, but also the necessary support to all of you to ensure its success.

Cancer could affect directly or indirectly all of us. And working together, our response - our partnership - can touch every corner of Europe. I therefore wish you all a most fruitful and successful discussion.

Thank you.

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