European Health Union: A Greater Role for the EU in Health

As we continue to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and begin charting a recovery course, we can, and must, do better – now and in the future. This crisis calls for “more Europe” – a greater role for the European Union (EU) in health, a renewed concentration on our shared core values, and the commitment to create a legal basis that can empower the EU to protect and secure health across the continent. 

The pandemic has spurred discussions about what was lacking in the EU response to COVID-19, and which prerequisites are needed to facilitate a strong and united response in future. These conversations gave additional momentum to the creation of a bottom-up campaign for a European Health Union (EHU), which supports the vision of a EHU presented by the European Commission to strengthen solidarity, commonly address cross-border threats, and provide security for EU citizens. Yet, the EHU Initiative goes further than these goals and looks beyond COVID-19 by addressing longer-term and more comprehensive issues.

This Initiative aims to open the floor to genuine discussion and advocacy efforts around how a greater level of EU engagement in matters of health will become a reality that is both acceptable to individual Member States and meets the requirements of EU policymakers to effectively shape health policy across the region. Through exchange and debates we hope increased knowledge and new actions will finally lead to the creation of a EHU through a revised Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, incorporating the EHU in Articles 2 and 3 to give the EU explicit competence to take action on health policy. This vision of a EHU seeks to:

  • Strive for the health and wellbeing of all Europeans, with no one left behind;
  • Strengthen solidarity within and between Member States, based on the principle of progressive universalism, providing support, including universal health coverage for all, but with particular attention to the needs of those who are disadvantaged;
  • Ensure environmental sustainability, by adopting the European Green Deal and prioritising measures to promote One Health, the concept that links our health with that of the animals and plants with which we share this planet;
  • Provide security for all Europeans, protecting them from the major threats to health and from the vulnerability that is created by living a precarious existence;
  • Enable everyone’s voice to be heard, so that policies that affect their health are created with them and not for them.

As first steps towards realising these goals a call for signatures for the European Health Union Manifesto has been launched and national and European Members of Parliament have been addressed to push for political discussion of a EHU in the European Council meetings on 25 – 26 March. In addition, a series of webinars and podcasts entitled ‘Towards a European Health Union’ are scheduled to take place at regular intervals throughout this year. To keep informed of upcoming activities please follow the EHU Initiative Twitter account and to sign the Manifesto please visit the EHU Initiative website.

We hope you are inspired to support us in building a European Health Union!


Written by the European Health Forum Gastein as facilitators of the European Health Union Initiative.

Published in GI-Mail 02/2021 (English edition).

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