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Progressive health ministers adopt declaration promoting quality healthcare for all Europeans


09 Feb 2022


Health & Consumers

Social democrats will ensure health systems are well-resourced, supported by excellent public services, affordable and accessible to all – this is a fundamental part of Europe’s social model and social cohesion. This is the message in a joint declaration adopted by health ministers from the Party of European Socialists (PES).

The declaration - The future of Europe’s healthcare: ending inequalities and improving quality of life for all cannot wait - is a blueprint for an EU where all citizens benefit from the wonders of the best care and medicine, not just those who can afford to pay.

Ministers from Sweden, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Romania and Spain, as well as the S&D Group in the European Parliament, endorsed the text during an online meeting yesterday evening.

“In 2017, the EU enshrined “timely access to affordable, preventive and curative health care of good quality” in the European Pillar of Social Rights. Since then, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought home quite how vital quality healthcare is to our individual and collective wellbeing. Universal public healthcare is not a luxury, it is a cornerstone of our social market economies in which everyone has the right to live a long and healthy life”, the declaration begins.

PES health ministers believe that the EU can contribute to improving the health and wellbeing of Europeans, especially the most vulnerable. The latest Eurobarometer survey confirmed that health and social security remain at the top of the list of citizens’ concerns.

Despite some solid EU initiatives like the European Child Guarantee – which commits member states to providing free and effective access to healthcare for children in need, supported by EU funds - there is still progress to be made, the declaration argues.

The EU and its member states must guarantee the right to universal access to timely and appropriate health coverage, regardless of financial means, gender, sexual orientation, cultural background or any other factor. This is a fundamental right that many still do not enjoy – patients across Europe experience differing levels of healthcare access due to varied budgets, high medicine prices, profiteering companies, and licensing issues.

To guarantee healthy, cohesive, and socially just communities, the declaration calls for member states to reverse austerity and health corporatisation. Investment in quality and affordable public health institutions is needed. After two difficult years fighting the pandemic, health and care workers also deserve more.

The declaration calls for fair, transparent and sustainable pricing of medicines, with the European Commission continuing to facilitate voluntary joint procurement across a range of health areas outside of crisis situations. Enhanced EU-level development of medicines - based on medical and societal needs - must be progressed. In order to promote health equity, the EU must focus on preventing contributors to ill-health - poor living and working conditions, pollution, and other factors that hit the poorest hardest. Initiatives to fight antimicrobial resistance must be strengthened. Vaccine solidarity must continue, including for people outside the EU - no one is safe from COVID-19 until everyone is safe.

The declaration has been signed by:

  • Lena Hallengren, Chair of the PES Health Ministers meeting, Minister for Health and Social Affairs, Sweden
  • Frank Vandenbroucke, Minister of Health and Social Affairs, Belgium 
  • Magnus Heunicke, Minister for Health, Denmark 
  • Aki Lindén, Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services, Finland 
  • Karl Lauterbach, Minister of Health, Germany 
  • Roberto Speranza, Minister of Health, Italy 
  • Paulette Lenert, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Consumer Protection, Minister of Health and Minister Delegate of Social Security, Luxembourg
  • Chris Fearne, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Health, Malta 
  • Marta Temido, Minister of Health, Portugal 
  • Alexandru Rafila, Minister of Health, Romania 
  • Carolina Darias, Minister of Health, Spain 
  • Heléne Fritzon, Vice-President of the S&D Group for a new Europe of equality, health, children’s rights and youth policy