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German Presidency – Making Europe (and healthcare) great again?

It has been quiet around this space for some time. But what better reason to come back from hibernation than Germany taking over the Presidency of the Council. Thirteen years after Germany’s last term, this one will be completely different: A virus has brought the whole of Europe to its knees and casted its shadow on the Presidency. Will Germany be able to follow their ambitious healthcare agenda and manage to lead Europe out of an unprecedented crisis? We surely hope so!

The 1st of July marks the beginning of the German Presidency – of the European Union that is (never mix up the European Council and the Council of the European Union! Obvious, isn’t it?). By the end of last year, the health care priorities of the German Presidency slowly started to materialise: Pushing for a European health data space, tackling shortages of medicinal products and (finally) progressing the HTA dossier. Hopes were high that for the latter a common position in the Council could even be agreed on. But then came the virus – a virus that managed to cause almost the whole of Europe to come to a halt. A virus that was able to completely reshuffle the cards and cause unknown difficulties.

The German Presidency will be a presidency unlike any other before because there are many things to actively tackle. From the more logistic problems like being unable to have meetings taking place in person to basically finding a way out of a health and economic crisis, one thing is clear: This won’t be an easy one. But it might also be a chance to reshuffle the deck and have a presidency that was never thought of before. A presidency which is not only the “moderator” for half a year, but a presidency that can really push things forward.

Reaching an agreement on a new Multiannual Financial Framework – widely known as the MFF – will be one milestone that needs to be achieved in the next six months. Another one will be the negotiations with the United Kingdom. Two subjects that will define Europe’s economic power over the next seven years, if not more. And that is “just” the money part.

As we literally find ourselves in a health care crisis of unknown magnitude, the health care priorities will be closely monitored, not only by the “Brussels Health Care Bubble” but also by all of us, the European citizens. And as far as we can see, these priorities did not change that much – they have just gotten another spin and may have even become a bit more tangible in light of the ongoing crisis. Looking at the “availability of medicines/ production of active pharmaceutical ingredients in the EU”, there now seems to be a clear roadmap on what needs to be done whereas last year the problem certainly existed, but it wasn’t as pressing as it is today. There is a momentum now that the German Presidency can and should use – wisely and cautiously. A false activism leading to a call to re-shore everything back to Europe is certainly not an option. What is needed is a well thought-through strategy that allows a sustainable production in Europe and a well-working network of global supply chains. The German Presidency should push for a reassuring framework which can actually make production in Europe attractive again. But this certainly is not a six month’s job – it’s more of a ten year mission. But as we said earlier, the German Presidency now has the chance to really push things forward.

One thing is clear: This presidency will be about more than just a regular council conclusion at the end of its term – it will help shaping the fate of the European Union for years to come. We certainly hope that Germany makes the most out of this opportunity and we will keep you in the loop. The next edition won’t take that long and that’s a promise we will keep.