EU Commissioner Healthcare John Dalli heard by European Parliament

“Patients first. Consumers first” : Designate Commissioner John Dalli heard by the European Parliament
John Dalli, Designate Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, was heard by the European Parliament on 14 January 2009. “Patients first. Consumers first” was the motto Dalli used as a key heading during the hearing. Please read on for the details of the hearing and further information on reactions from the public health community.

On 14 January, the European Parliament held the hearing of John Dalli, Commissioner Designate for Health and Consumer Policy.

Background information on the process

On 27 November 2009, the European Commission President Jos�-Manuel Barroso together with the Council proposed John Dalli as Designate Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy. President Barroso defined the portfolio allocated to John Dalli in a mission letter and indicated the various services that he would have at his disposal in order to accomplish his tasks.

Following the ordinary procedure, John Dalli then submitted his Curriculum Vitae to the attention of the European Parliament, as well as well as his declaration of interests.

The ENVI and IMCO Committees provided John Dalli with their priorities for the Health and Consumer Protection areas, underlining the following specific elements in the area of public health :

– “Interconnection of health and environment

– Ensuring coherence in EU policies

– Measures to address the impact of the demographic challenge (with the increase in the ageing population) on public health and healthcare systems in Europe

– Measures to improve the independence of patients� groups, including in relation to financing

– Legislative action on indoor air quality

– Legislative action to protect workers from environmental tobacco smoke and to update the Tobacco Labelling Directive”

On the same occasion, the European Parliament addressed a series of written questions to all designate commissioners. John Dalli presented his written answers.

The Hearing on 14 January 2010

The European Parliament�s Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI), as well as delegations from the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee (IMCO) and Agriculture and Rural Development Committee (AGRI) held during three hours the hearing of Commissioner Designate John Dalli.

In his general introductory address to the Members of the European Parliament, John Dalli insisted that the underlying theme of his work will be “patients first, consumers first”.

His vision includes European citizens living longer and healthier lives and consumers influencing the policies that concern them. Whilst particularly concerned by the question of sustainability of healthcare systems in Europe, John Dalli believes in the need to invest more in prevention and health promotion and mentioned he�d want to see this reflected in the budgets for health, with more than just 3% allocated to prevention matters.

“There is no reason that poor people should suffer from poor health” is a statement that was welcome by MEPs with applauses, even though we didn�t get to hear what concrete action John Dalli plans in order to tackle the increasing health inequalities in Europe.

John Dalli tackled several issues during the hearing, either through his address or as an answer to the various questions from MEPs. Here are a few topics on which we had the opportunity to hear John Dalli�s views :

– Pharmaceutical policy with a focus on the formerly called Pharmaceutical Package and its three components : Information to Patients, Pharmacovigilance and Falsified Medicines (please read the full article on this topic here

– Food and nutrition policy, with a focus on the Food Information to Consumers Regulation and rules on the cloning of animals – the full article is available here

– Negotiation on health files with the Council, more information is availablehere

Moreover, on consumer policy, Mr Dalli said he sees his role as “the guardian of consumers” at the level of the College of Commissioners.

On a number of key files for the European Parliament, John Dalli expressed views that were generally welcome by the various MEPs. For example, on the so-called Patient�s Rights Directive (Directive on Patients� Rights in Cross-border Healthcare), he agreed with Radvil� Morkunait�-Mikul�nin� MEP (EPP, LI) that the work on this piece of legilsation needs to move forward, whilst he assured that he make a lot of efforts in order to foster an agreement at the Council level, but also among the EP and the Council.

Answering a more general question from Linda McAvan MEP (S&D, UK), coordinator of the S&D group in ENVI, he said that he would like his legacy after five years to show he has been tough on issues like alcohol, smoking and obesity. He then insisted on the need to provide more information and on education as a key tool leading to healthier lifestyles. “The earlier we get at children, the better it is”, he added and indicated that “proper budgets are needed” in that regard.