February 21. 2024. 6:33

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Polish paediatrician to lead EU Parliament’s health committee

The Polish centre-right MEP Bartosz Arłukowicz was elected by acclamation as chair of the brand-new European Parliament’s public health subcommittee (SANT) in its first-ever meeting.

The 30 members of the newly-set SANT appointed the so-called bureau of the subcommittee – which consists of one chair and four vice-chairs – during its kick-off meeting on Thursday (23 March).

A paediatric oncologist for more than a decade, the freshly-elected SANT president Arłukowicz also served as health minister in Poland before being elected to the European Parliament in 2019.

Previously at the Parliament, he chaired the special committee on beating cancer between 2020 and 2021.

Cancer committee chair: EU should not scrimp on healthcare

Each euro invested in cancer treatment is a step closer to patients’ health, so Europe should not cut corners and leave patients alone in their fight, centre-right MEP Bartosz Arłukowicz told EURACTIV in an interview.

In his acceptance speech, the Polish lawmaker highlighted the importance of this new committee in uniting Europe as it faces big health challenges, like the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic or the necessity of new medical equipment.

“Most people, in order to be able to make their own lives, need to be in good health. If people fall ill with serious illnesses, there have to be systems in place that will allow them to look to the future with hope,” he said.

The board was completed by the four vice-chairs – Romanian socialist MEP Tudor Ciuhodaru, Slovenian centrist Irena Joveveva, Green MEP Tilly Metz from Luxembourg and extreme-right Polish MEP Joanna Kopcińska.

The European Parliament approved the setting up of the new public health subcommittee last January.

Until now, public health was included in the competencies of the Parliament’s environment committee (ENVI), which, in addition to environmental policy, it is also responsible for food safety issues, including veterinary legislation and chemicals legislation.

Political groups have said on more than one occasion that the scope of ENVI was too broad for a single committee, considering the recently increased focus at the EU level on health and health systems following the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new health sub-committee will still be linked to ENVI, which will be considered as the ‘parent committee’ according to the Parliament’s rules of procedures.

However, subcommittees do not have direct legislative power – decisions on a regulation or a directive must be voted on by its main committee.

While the new committee will give a specific space for health topics to be discussed in the European Parliament, it would not change much from a practical point of view, as MEPs in the ENVI committee will still have to deal with the majority of the legislative work.

Arłukowicz acknowledged that some health issues are member state competence and cannot be legislated at the EU level.

However, he added it is the responsibility of elected EU lawmakers to ensure that “policies are not made so that people’s lives need to adapt to the legal framework, but that it is the framework that fits the lives of the people”.

“Times are changing: In the EU, health is getting more and more visibility and is considered more and more a priority,” said German centre-right MEP Peter Liese before the start of the election procedure.

The first meeting of the SANT subcommittee will take place during the next plenary session in Strasbourg.

Arłukowicz insisted on the need to start the work as soon as possible “because people want us to work well and quickly so that we can reach concrete impact and find solutions to everyday problems of patients and hospitals”.

European Parliament to set up a standing, dedicated health forum

The three biggest parties – Christian democrats (EPP), socialists (S&D) and liberals (Renew Europe) – struck an agreement on the setting up of a new permanent sub-committee on public health in the European Parliament.