Discours de Lydia Mutsch à l'occasion de la réunion plénière du Health Security Committee

"(...)Health is our most important capital"

Discours – Publié le

"Dear Director,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Please allow me to start my speech by expressing my deep condolences to the representatives of France who are with us today as well as to the French Government and Nation.

All of us are deeply shocked and in mourning after the terrorist attacks in Paris.

It is an attack against our common values.  

We stand united with the French people and the Government of France. (….)

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very honoured to welcome you from all around Europe in our Château de Senningen and its beautiful surroundings.

This meeting of the Health Security Committee is of particular importance because it addresses many of the subjects that we have chosen to address during the Luxembourg Presidency.

When I indeed studied the agenda I realized that all the topics have been discussed during our mandate.

Today, I would like to focus particularly on two subjects which have intensively rhythmed our daily business over the last months and where you, - members of the Health Security Committee -, have greatly contributed to the optimal response of the European Union: Ebola and the refugees crisis.

The Ebola epidemic is the most striking illustration of what we all know but what is never stressed enough: health is our most important capital.

If we want the human right to health to be reality, we need effective, strong and resilient health systems.

It is therefore vital that the health dimension is fully taken into account when decisions are taken to react to cross-border crises.

Ebola seems to be under control but we need to be vigilant. We don’t know when the next epidemic will hit us, but we know for sure that cross-sectoral cooperation is crucial if we want to strengthen health security within the European Union and to improve the response and preparedness capacities of Member States in case of future outbreaks.

Health, medical and clinical concerns must remain at the core of this response.

This is only one of the many take-home-messages that have emerged from the high level Conference on “Lessons Learned from the Ebola epidemic” that has taken place in Luxembourg from 12th to 14th October.

This Conference was a unique and mind opening experience because it allowed both decision makers and stakeholders from the European Union and from the international scene which have been directly involved in the management of the Ebola crisis to bring in their views.

This Conference would not have been possible without the most valuable efforts of the Commission services and of Public Health England whom I would like to warmly thank once more for their relentless commitment throughout all the months of preparation.

We listened with great interest to the strong calls for action expressed by commissioners Andriukaitis and Stylianides as well as to the conclusions of Dr Chan on the lessons learned  exercise already undertaken by the WHO. Dr Chan showed us that we should not be afraid to push for changes if we want to ensure a better global response capacity.

The intervention of German minister Hermann Gröhe on the discussions at the G7 on Ebola was a most timely and valuable input to our reflections.

I think we all agree that Ebola has caused unprecedented damages.

But we also learned that Ebola did not only have negative effects.

First of all, it has triggered new ways of working and of crisis management within the European Union, allowing for the best possible coordination of public health, research, development and military departments.

It allowed all relevant actors to test the applicability status of Decision 1082 on serious cross-border threats to health, exactly two years after its publication.

Speeder reaction and pragmatic approaches were greatly facilitated by daily and weekly teleconferences operated by the Emergency Response Coordination Centre and the Health Security Committee Unprecedented funds were levied. 

Those EU coordination meetings are indeed vital to keep us ministers informed on the latest developments and thus create the necessary conditions to enable us to take informed decisions, even back when there were a many uncertainties in relation to the virus.

I think it is fair to say that Decision 1082 has proven its effectiveness and that the Health Security Committee – which was formally established by that same Decision – has also proven that it is not only a very useful forum but also absolutely indispensable for the management of health emergencies of international impact.

You did a tremendous job and the Luxembourg Government is proud to host you. Thank you so much!

Secondly, Ebola has also shown us that it is important to show greater solidarity. Solidarity towards the affected countries, but also between Member States.

Just to give you an example: Luxembourg has signed cooperation agreements with two other Member States allowing us to send possible Ebola patients to their specialized hospital facilities in case our national capacities were overloaded. Our request was promptly agreed and I am extremely grateful for this sign of cooperation and solidarity.

Another example: Luxembourg has organized support for other countries by gearing up its air-transport capacities to allow sanitary repatriation of European citizens working in the affected countries.

Yet, there is always more that we can do!  

We must spare no efforts in ensuring that our citizens are safe from possible future health threats.

No doubt, the reinforcement and a more efficient implementation of the International Health Regulations will play a significant role, as well as the general strengthening of national health systems.

I have seen that the review of the IHR is on your agenda just as progress in the field of preparedness and the implementation of the 1082 Decision.

I am reassured to see that your Committee has spared no time to address the messages drawn from the Conference and I would like to thank you for this very timely reaction and reactivity. 

As the Luxembourg Presidency, we have tried to ensure a quick formal follow up of the Conference by drafting Council Conclusions on the main lessons learned that have resulted from the discussions.

The Conclusions recognize a central role to the Health Security Committee in identifying, assessing and taking forward the main points identified by the Conference.

The text has already been discussed once by the Member States and we hope to finalise the discussions by the end of this month. In fact, right now, as I speak, the Public Health Working Group of the Council has again taken up discussions on the text.

I am confident that, once the Conclusions will have been formally adopted by the Council, the Health Security Committee will make the most appropriate use of this text in order to help the European Union and its Member States to develop and to maintain strong preparedness and response capacities, while also respecting national competences.

Now, as regards the refugees and migrants crisis – a topic which you will address right after my intervention:

The health ministers had the opportunity to discuss the health dimension of the migration during the Informal Council in Luxembourg on 24th and 25th September.

The discussions took place on the basis of a background document which stressed the importance to translate the political commitments taken during the last months into coherent and co-ordinated policies where the health dimension is adequately addressed.

It is therefore of utmost importance that today:

  • We ensure access of migrants and refugees to healthcare services adapted to their needs under the same conditions than residents, notably as regards medical checks, vaccination and emergency care;
  • and that we integrate migrant and refugee health matters into national and EU policies.

Health Ministers seized the opportunity to exchange on the national measures through which access to healthcare services is granted to refugees upon their arrival in their respective country and pending the treatment of their asylum application.

Many ministers also stressed the added value of work conducted by the HSC, ECDC and the WHO. The importance of exchange of good practices between national authorities as well as the necessity to communicate needs openly and early in the process were also highlighted – in this regard, your Committee can continue to play a vital role.

I was glad to see that there is consensus on the necessity to provide refugees with the healthcare they need and that they considered it useful to have a more coherent and co-ordinated approach on migrant and refugee health at European Union.

I was also very thankful to the Commissioner for having informed us on the many different actions that he, by then, had already carried out but also for his reassuring statements and the commitment that, together with his fellow Commissioner for Migration and Humanitarian Aid, he will continue do everything possible to help.

Together with the Commissioner I have called on all Member States for solidarity and for providing help in-kind, following discussions at the Health Security Committee.

Dear Commissioner,

Dear Director,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In the name of the Luxembourg Government and of the Presidency, I would like to thank you for your most interesting input to the discussions and for your support to our further endeavours in the field of preparedness and response planning.

Let me conclude by:

  • thanking DG SANTE, especially its team in Luxembourg, for its excellent cooperation with the national authorities

and by

  • wishing you a very fruitful continuation of the discussions.

I am looking forward to welcoming you to the next meeting of your Committee in 2016.

Thank you so much for your attention!"