Category Archives: Healthcare

New Directive on Patients’ Rights in Cross-Border Healthcare

Directive 2011/24/EU on the application of patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare has been published in the Official Journal. The directive applies to individual patients who decide to seek healthcare in a Member State other than the Member State of affiliation. It does not apply to the following:

  • services in the field of long-term care;
  • allocation of and access to organs for the purpose of organ transplants;
  • public vaccination programmes against infectious diseases.

Member States must ensure that the healthcare providers on their territory apply the same scale of fees for healthcare for patients from other Member States, as for domestic patients in a comparable medical situation (Art. 4, para.4).

The Member State of affiliation must ensure the costs incurred by an insured person who receives cross-border healthcare are reimbursed, if the healthcare in question is among the benefits to which the insured person is entitled in the Member State of affiliation (Art. 7, para. 1). The Member State of affiliation can determine the healthcare for which an insured person is entitled to assumption of costs and the level of assumption of those costs, regardless of where the healthcare is provided (art. 7, para. 3). The Member State of affiliation can also prescribe a list of the categories of healthcare that require prior authorization of the cross-border treatment (Art. 8).

Member States must adopt the necessary laws, regulations and administrative provisions by 25 October 2013.

 

 

EU Military Capability Development, NATO and Obesity

The Council adopted its conclusions on the European military capability development. The conclusions point out to measures such as exchange of information on defence budget cuts, capability pooling and sharing options (such as the recent UK-France Defence Cooperation Treaty), developing civil-military synergies in capability development, and developing cooperation with NATO regarding the development of military capabilities.

Now NATO is somewhat wary of EU’s military capability development, since it can divert important military infrastructure from the Alliance. The EU is not convinced of the success of most important NATO operation in the moment in Afghanistan. On the other hand experts say that the two organizations can align force development and mission-planning processes, and ensure closer communication and discourage any rivalry.

There is however a not-so-obvious threat both to EU and NATO military capabilities that  at first looks somewhat anecdotal. OECD reports that over half of adults in the European are overweight. As Letters from Europe notes, this is a military problem, since too many European men and women, just like in the US, are too fat to fight.

Hence the idea – couldn’t EU and NATO work on a obesity mitigation program as a first step in improving overall military capability?

 

 

Member States Criticize Proposal on GMO

The Member States have criticized and in fact rejected a proposal by the European Commission on a new type of regulation on genetically modified organisms (GMOs). According to EUobserver both pro-GMO and anti-GMO Member States have objected the newly proposed regime. The Commission proposal provides that the general approval of the GMO will still be made on EU level under current rules, but once GMOs are approved, Member States will be able to decide whether to allow the introduction of the GMOs on their territory or not.

This reaction is not surprising, but the current discord on GMOs must be managed somehow. So the Commission proposal at least provides a starting point for negotiations. Member States should also keep in mind that they need the approval of the European Parliament, where reaching a consensus will also be difficult.

Committee of the Regions 2009 Ageing Report

The 2009 Ageing Report of the Committee of the Regions provides some interesting proposals for managing the ageing of populations in the European Union. The topic is very important given the fact that 9 out of the 10 countries with the oldest population in the world are EU Member States.

The report proposes three main priorities:

(1) healthy ageing;

(2) labour market participation and productivity; and

(3) access to services and facilities.

The idea is to merge those priorities in the Europe 2020 strategy.

Priorities of the Belgian Presidency of the Council 2010

The Belgian presidency of the Council has started, and it has published its six-month programme. The objectives and priorities are:

  • a return to maintained, sustainable and balanced growth throughout the European Union;
  • fulfilling the objectives of the EU 2020 strategy;
  • a new regulatory and supervisory structure for the financial sector;
  • green jobs and white jobs (health and social services jobs);
  • objectives and performance indicators for social protection, social inclusion, pensions and healthcare;
  • negotiations for a European patent;
  • guidelines for better coordination of Member States’ policy for research, development and innovation;
  • securing the energy supply;
  • agreement on European legislation which would allow Member States to recover the external costs generated by road transport from users;
  • establishing a single asylum procedure and a uniform international protection statute by 2012
  • fight against terrorism, organised crime, illegal immigration and human trafficking;
  • legal migration will also be a priority for the Presidency.

Interestingly, the program uses the motto “Let’s put Europe back into action!”. I wonder if this has anything to do with the outgoing Spanish presidency.

Second Amendment of the Cotonou Agreement

The second amendment of the Cotonou Agreement with the African, Caribbean and Pacific states has been signed. The Cotonou Agreement constitutes the foundation of the special relationship between the EU and ACP nations. It is aimed at reducing and eventually eradicating poverty as well as at sustainable development and the gradual integration of the ACP states into the world economy.

The changes include strengthened provisions against the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, as well as provisions against organized crime and trafficking of human beings, drugs and weapons. There are new procedures for assistance to ACP states for adapting to global warming and for integrating climate change into their development strategies, as well as improved support to the aquaculture and fisheries sectors in ACP states and to the fight against HIV/AIDS.

For a critical assessment see the briefing paper of the CONCORD Cotonou Working Group.

The Report of the Reflection Group for the Future of the EU

The European Council in December 2007 decided to establish a ‘reflection group’ of no more than nine people, selected from across the Union on the basis of merit, to identify the key issues which the European Union is likely to face in the future and how these might be addressed.

Now the group, led by Felipe González, has issued its report “PROJECT EUROPE 2030: Challenges and Opportunities” (via Ralph Grahn).

There are some concrete proposals that I find interesting:

Economy:

  • Further developing the internal market, e.g. in the area of services;
  • Social security rights should, once and for all, be readily transportable between Member States;
  • Extension of the availability of e-infrastructure to houses, schools and businesses;
  • Development of healthcare, well-being and age-related industries and services;
  • Giving leadership for economic coordination to the European Council;
  • Reinforcing procedures for supervision of national budgets to ensure transparency as well as the sustainability of public finances.

Education and Innovation:

  • Developing flexible and open curricula capable of nurturing curiosity and creativity among children;
  • Building a network of top-level higher education establishments able to rival the best in the world;
  • Ensuring that universities have greater exposure to the real economy in Europe and the rest of the world;
  • More funding is needed for applied research that would benefit SMEs.

Demographic Challenges:

  • Family-friendly policies aimed at stabilising or increasing fertility levels should be put in place;
  • Provide the conditions in which people, in particular women with young children, and older workers, can remain in the workforce;
  • Removing the legal, administrative and cultural barriers to promote greater intra-EU labour mobility;
  • Retirement should become an option for individuals rather than an obligation;
  • A common immigration policy for the EU should set out a specific medium- to long-term strategy for targeting skilled immigrants;
  • A common approach to irregular immigrants.

Energy Security and Climate Change:

  • The headline target for energy efficiency should be raised to 50 per cent by 2030, from the currently agreed 20 per cent by 2020;
  • Move away from oil as the primary source of fuel for transport by encouraging bio-fuel standards and electric and hybrid vehicles;
  • Develop intelligent energy networks (smart grids);
  • Recourse to nuclear energy;
  • Develop unconventional energy sources such as tight gas and shale oil.
  • Internal and External Security:
  • Increasing the powers of existing agencies and instruments, such as Europol, Eurojust, the Situation Centre, Frontex and the Counter-Terrorism Coordinator;
  • Create a European civil reserve team of specially trained units ready to be deployed at short notice;
  • Develop a more integrated external border management system;
  • Agree on a workable strategic concept for the EU defence.

Foreign Relations and Enlargement:

  • Build a global economic strategy that takes into account the euro as the world’s second reserve currency;
  • Stay open to potential new members from Europe;
  • Develop an enhanced role in stabilising its immediate surroundings by building on the existing ‘European Neighbourhood Policy’, ‘Eastern Partnership’ and ‘Union for the Mediterranean’;
  • Manage a strategic co-existence, modernisation and region-building policy with Russia;
  • Pull the EU’s diplomatic, military, trade, and development policies together with the external dimensions of its common economic policies;
  • Develop an EU approach to global governance reform.

The European Citizens:

  • More transparency and accuracy in the way we communicate EU policy-making;
  • Avoid rhetoric and explain in plain language how EU adds value to its citizens’ lives;
  • Encouraging Member States to grant voting rights in national elections to nationals of other Member States after a certain period of residence and tax payments;
  • “Europeanising” European Parliament elections through the introduction of cross-border lists;
  • Create a specific administrative instrument that would provide proof of European citizenship for individuals to use on a voluntary basis in order to access residence, employment and social security rights;
  • Establish a system for evaluating the impact of EU law.

No Cancer Drugs for Bulgarian Kids

I became recently aware of a really worrying problem: it appears that the Bulgarian National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) has stopped the delivery of some drugs against cancer for children under 18 years.

Let me repeat: we don’t deliver some drugs to the Bulgarian kids that have some forms of cancer. The reason for this situation is that at least two drugs (L-asparaginase and Purinethol) were not included in the positive drugs list of the NHIF for 2009 and 2010. The parents of affected children say that the drugs are essential in their kids’ overall therapy. Some of the parents are able to shop the drugs abroad, mainly from Greece and the UK.

A very simple question arises: what sort of a European Union Member State is Bulgaria, really??? How is it possible to leave the children without proper medication supply? Who will take the responsibility if the health of these children deteriorates further because of erratic treatment?

A lot can be said about the incapacity of the Bulgarian public administration to secure the rights of Bulgarian citizens. But can we try a little harder AT LEAST for the kids???

EU Achievements in 2009

The European Commission has issued its annual multimedia yearbook presenting some of the European Union’s most important achievements of the past year.

The main achievements according to the Commission are:

Paving the way towards economic recovery – The EU and its Member States have mobilised huge resources to put the economy back on its feet and to protect the citizens.

Staying in touch for less – Europeans can stay in touch via mobile phone more easily and more cheaply, thanks to the EU’s efforts to ensure cheaper costs and connections.

Pooling resources to fight dementia – the EU’s €2 billion ‘innovative medicines initiative’ brings together industry and academia to ensure the rapid transition from new science to new medicines.

Tackling climate change – The EU has made it possible to prevent 32 million tonnes of CO2 emissions at the flick of a light switch.

Fighting hunger in the world’s poorest countries – As its €1 billion Food Facility clearly showed in 2009, the EU is tackling poverty and hunger across the globe.

Caring for the environment – To keep the environment as clean as possible, the EU has brought in new rules to cut down on harmful pollutants from petrol or pesticides.

Rebuilding Europe when disaster strikes – EU countries have acted rapidly to support one another, by sending aid to areas affected by natural disasters, as was the case for the Abruzzo earthquake in 2009.

Giving bank customers value for money – The EU created the single market for the benefit of citizens as well as companies; now it is making sure that banks give their customers a fair deal.

Protecting animals on land and in the oceans – the EU has made it illegal to put seal products on the market and proposed a new action plan to save sharks.

Keeping online shopping hassle-free – the EU has cracked-down on websites that were not giving consumers the rights they are entitled to under EU laws.

Long-Term Financial Risks for Member States

The European Commission has issued a report on the sustainability of public finances in Member States. The report groups countries based on their medium- and long-term risk profiles.

To my surprise Bulgaria is in the lowest risk group together with Denmark, Estonia, Finland and Sweden. The countries whose public finances are most at risk in the medium term are Ireland, Greece, Latvia, Spain and the United Kingdom.

The report proposes a policy framework for improving the sustainability of public finances that includes:

  • Deficit and debt reduction;
  • Increasing employment rates;
  • Reform of pension and healthcare systems.