The European Committee of
the Regions’ Commission for Natural Resources (NAT) debates on the damage
caused by the Coronavirus, its impact on local communities and EU Health Emergency
Mechanism. At the meeting on 18 June,
members also discussed opinions on cross-border healthcare, sustainable
use of natural resources within the Mediterranean insular context and on strategy for Rural Revival.
The COVID-19 pandemic clearly demonstrates the importance of skilled and highly trained staff but also well-funded, well-equipped and robust healthcare systems with a capacity to adapt to a new situation quickly. The European Commission launched its proposal for a €750bn Next Generation EU recovery instrument reinforcing the newly proposed long-term €1100bn EU multi-annual financial frameworks for the period 2021-2027. The Next Generation fund contains a pillar dedicated to health, civil protection and resilience.
Opening the discussion on EU Health Emergency Mechanism, Birgitta Sacrédeus (SE/EPP), Member of Dalarna County Council said “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how fragile our health systems are. We need to substantially strengthen our healthcare systems and develop EU’s emergency and disaster response capacities. We are proposing to set up a Health Emergency Mechanism to ensure effective cooperation and coordination on preparedness and response at EU, national, regional and local level, to coordinate distribution of essential medical equipment and to improve the essential medical supply across Europe, among others.”
Opinion highlights the importance of mutual assistance and cooperation in cross-border healthcare, including the transport of patients and the transfer of medical professionals to alleviate the pressure on health systems in the worst affected EU regions.
NAT members suggests to set up an “EU health emergency mechanism” in order to coordinate EU action and support for national, regional and local disaster respond structures during health threats and crisis situations. Opinion calls on the Member States and the Commission to establish a permanent European Strategic Stockpile (ESS) of antibiotics, vaccines, chemical antidotes, antitoxins, and other critical medical supplies.
Opinion stresses the urgent need to develop vaccines against COVID-19 and urges the EU legislator to take account of the Committee’s call to strengthen EU cooperation on the development, production and distribution of vaccines, complementing public and private medical research. Its adoption is planned on the plenary session 12 October 2020.
Members debated over ‘Cross-border health care‘ opinion, presented by Karsten Uno Petersen (DK/PES), Regional Councillor, Region of Southern Denmark. Rapporteur stressed: “The COVID-19 pandemic proved how important the issue of cross-border healthcare can be for Europeans. Seeing patients being treated across borders was the best image of what solidarity really means. Let’s make use of what we learned from this emergency to improve our cross-border healthcare system and provide people living in border regions with simplified procedures and patient safety, but also clear information for them and healthcare workers. We are talking about 40% of Europe’s territories and one third of the population of our Union who could benefit from an improved European framework.” Making sure that citizens can access health services close to home as easy as possible, while providing safeguards for regional and national health systems, are key concerns of this opinion.
NAT members also voted an opinion drafted by Francina Armengol i Socías (ES/PES), President of the Government of the Balearic Islands, entitled Towards sustainable use of natural resources within the Mediterranean insular context. Rapporteur urges the European Commission to draw up a Mediterranean Island Strategy given the unique geographical and geostrategic situation of the Mediterranean islands. The document stresses that, on the Mediterranean islands, public authorities and socio-economic actors face specific daily difficulties related to the management and protection of fragile and scarce natural resources. The European islands of the Mediterranean concentrate 95% of the island inhabitants of the European Union and that, together with the rest of the islands in the basin, they share common challenges, problems and limitations that hinder their economic development.
Adoptions are planned in the plenary session 12 October 2020.
Members had an exchange of views on the opinion on EU strategy for rural revival, the CoR’s draft opinion by rapporteur Cllr Enda Stenson (IE/EA), Member of Leitrim County Council. The current pandemic has added an additional dimension and urgency to the quest for rural revival in regions across the European Union. This crisis has exposed and exacerbated the consequences of a number of long-standing threats faced by rural areas. First a prolonged depopulation has left rural areas deserted and feeling neglected in relation to EU policies. The objective for formulating a true agenda for rural revival must incorporate to support sustainable and vibrant rural communities, enterprise, employment and job creation, improve digital and infrastructure connectivity, maximise the potential for rural tourism and embrace rural areas’ creativity and cultural potential.
Read here “Updates on the COVID-19 crisis” the latest edition of the bulletin of the NAT commission.
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