The coronavirus pandemic and now the war in the European continent "has tought us that we must secure our supply of critical resources and strive towards Europe’s strategic autonomy," noted the European Commission's Vice President Margaritis Schinas on Friday, speaking at the 1st World Panomogenetic Medical Conference that is being held at Thessaloniki on July 15-17.
"We do not want to see shortages of medicines or masks ever again in the EU," he added, "and this implies change."
Speaking about the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on Europe, Schinas said that "in this unprecedented context, the European Union did unprecedented things," and "probably the most symbolic and effective one was the successful deployment of the EU vaccines strategy, which has saved million of lives and allowed the much-desired return to normality."
Schinas underlined that Europe is not yet done with the coronavirus pandemic, because "as we speak, Europe is hit by a new wave of infections(...), and all the attention needs to remain in managing the pandemic." He also referred to other emerging threats to public health, such as "the surges of hepatitis and of monkeypox."
But apart from viruses, he noted that there's other types of threats also emerging, as "tragically, a new threat emerged five months ago: Russia’s unlawful and brutal military aggression of Ukraine."
"Peace and security, which we were taking for granted, are among the most fundamental determinants of health and wellbeing," stressed Schinas. The right to health "is one of our fundamental values and a symbol of what the EU stands for. It is an intrinsic part of our European way of life.”
In this context, Schinas observed that EU member states “must strengthen their healthcare systems and overal resilience, because we need a strong healthcare sector, where practitioners can excel and patients be effectively treated.”
This, he said, “is crucial to cope better with existing and future diseases. Preparedness and surveillance continue to play a central role. We must monitor closely the behaviour of viruses and cross border health threats, their evolution, and the impact on vaccine effectiveness.”
To make all this a reality, he said, “we have worked hard in the last few months to bring about the structural changes that Europe needs to decide faster and better.”
Part of these changes is that “we have strengthened the mandates of the European Medicines Agency and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control,” but also “having created HERA, the EU Health Emergency, Preparedness & Response Authority, which recently has negotiated the supply of vaccines against Monkeypox, and is securing the availability of adapted vaccines against Covid-19.”
“Both the war in Ukraine and ongoing thealth threats show the urgency of further strengthening our coordination and resilience; as well as the European project as a whole,” Schinas highlighted.
The 1st World Panomogenetic Medical Conference is organized by the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s General Secretariat for Hellenes Abroad & Public Diplomacy, and the Department of Medicine of the Aristotle University in Thessaloniki, under the auspices of the Ministry of Interior (Sector of Macedonia-Thrace).