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‘People are still suffering’: Commission chief calls for ‘European Health Union’

‘People are still suffering’: Commission chief calls for ‘European Health Union’

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen says the coronavirus pandemic has underlined the need for closer cooperation, promising a global summit to share the lessons learned from the crisis.

“The people of Europe are still suffering,” she said in her first annual State of the EU address on Wednesday. “For me, it is crystal clear – we need to build a stronger European Health Union.”

The EU states need to strengthen their crisis preparedness and management of cross-border health threats, von der Leyen said. She told members of the European Parliament that her commission would work to reinforce the European Medicines Agency and European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.

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Von der Leyen announced the creation of a new agency for biomedical advanced research and development, dubbed BARDA. The EU also plans to convene a global health summit next year together with the Italian G20 presidency. “Because this was a global crisis, we need to learn the global lessons,” the EU’s chief executive noted. The move, she hopes, “will show Europeans that our Union is there to protect all.”

However, health policy currently remains the responsibility of individual EU member states. While officials in Brussels have tried to coordinate the bloc’s united response to the coronavirus epidemic, national lockdowns and border rules have varied widely.

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