The EU Civil Society Forum on HIV, TB and Hepatitis, gathering leading civil society organisations at the national and regional level in the EU and neighbouring countries, welcomes with caution the merging of the EU Health Programme into an enlarged European Social Fund+.
While the will to address socio-economic determinants of health by the creation of synergies within programmes is a positive move, a new governance structure is a concern, as it may represent a loss of political leadership and further downgrade the importance of health from a Health Programme to a Health Strand. We can rightly ask ourselves whether we are going to lose the post of Commissioner for Health in the next EU MFF.
Strong leadership on health is expected and will resonate well with European citizens. 70% of Europeans want the EU to do more for health and social issues. Europe, with its longer term of office and regional convening power, can do more than any national government to turn that around and leave a healthy legacy for its future generations.
We deplore the proposed 8% cut in health funding compared to the 2014-2020 period. Investing in people in a social Europe needs a reinforced health programme with increased long-term funding, capable of delivering pan European projects with regional added value such as in the field of infectious diseases, contributing to the reduction of health inequalities in the Union, and ensuring an adequate European response to major health concerns. However, at the current pace Europe will not be reaching the SDG goals on HIV, TB and Hepatitis by 2030.
The EU needs to safeguard its rights-based approach to health in the next EU MFF, as well as provide the adequate financial and technical means to ensure a sustainable regional response to the fight against HIV, AIDS, TB and Hepatitis in Europe. EU action on cross-border health threats should not limit itself to responding to crisis, as is suggested by the regulation’s operation objectives in Health.
The emphasis on curbing health inequalities and reinforcing the sustainability of our health systems, especially at the community level for the most vulnerable is key. Cooperation with civil society organisations in this regard should continue to be the norm while we strive to make more progress towards Agenda 2030.