Last week, the Belgian presidency of the Council of the EU invited the Working Party on Public Health at High Level and the Chief Medical Officers to a joint meeting to discuss issues of common interest, notably health emergency preparedness.

On 8 and 9 February 2024, the Belgian presidency of the Council of the EU welcomed a joint meeting of the Chief Medical Officers and the EU Working Party on Public Health at High-Level. Among the matters of shared interest, both groups discussed health emergency preparedness while focusing on the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During his introductory speech, Dr. Dirk Ramaekers, Secretary-general of the Federal Public Service Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment, commended the adoption of the EU Health Union legal package aiming at enhancing the Union’s ability to manage health crises. However, he also underlined the need for the EU not to forget the lessons learned from the COVID-19 crisis in the run-up to the European elections. In that regard, he added that we should keep on working to guarantee the full implementation of the EU Health Union in order to prepare for new crises, some of which are already foreseeable at this very moment - such as the risk of new communicable diseases with pandemic potential, the increasing level of antimicrobial resistance or the impact of climate change.

Echoing this call, former Chief Medical Officer of the United States of America, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who participated to the meeting online, stressed that “emerging infections are not a one-time occurrence, they are a never-ending challenge. This final lesson is a sober acknowledgement that we should be perpetually prepared”.

Whether in the United States or within the European Union, one thing remains true: health crises know no border and spread fast. That is why we must make sure that the EU has a clear governance and leadership in times of crisis. Yet we believe that the current European landscape of health crisis governance has become rather complex, as many different actors and platforms have been created as a response the COVID-19 pandemic. The Belgian presidency of the Council of the EU will therefore continue the crucial work of clarifying crisis governance in the EU before the next (health) crisis occurs.

Under its slogan, “a Europe that cares, prepares, and protects”, Belgium is committed to strengthen the EU Health Union and keep health high on the European agenda, as highlighted in its special health publication, coordinated with the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies.


 

A Europe that cares, prepares, and protects

Download here the digital version of our publication "A Europe that cares, prepares, protects: Strengthening the EU Health Union" (only available in English).

EU2024BE: focus on our "health" priorities

Download here the digital version of our brochure on our main health priorities during the Belgian presidency of the Council of the EU.