Press Release

Meeting of the European Council of Ministers with responsibility for Health

Minister for Health and Children, Mr Micheál Martin, TD, today chaired the formal Meeting of the European Council of Ministers with responsibility for Health. There was a lengthy agenda dealing with items for adoption, items for initial discussion and progress achieved so far.

The Council adopted Conclusions on Promoting Heart Health, E-Health, Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Planning, Patient Mobility, Alcohol and Young People and Childhood Asthma.

The Conclusions on Heart Health call on the Member States and the Commission to promote cardiovascular health within the context of the national public health strategies and in the framework of the Public Health Action Programme.

The Conclusions on E – Health invite the Member States and the Commission to develop and implement e-health in the context of national strategies and of Community programmes in the field of public health.

In relation to Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Planning the Conclusions invite the Member States and the Commission to cooperate with a view to adopting appropriate measures in the area of pandemic preparedness planning.

The Council´s Conclusions on Alcohol and Young People follow up the Council Recommendation of 5 June 2001 on issues surrounding the drinking of alcohol by young people and recognises the need for cooperation at Community level to develop a strategy aimed at reducing such alcohol related harm particularly among the young.

On Childhood Asthma the Council´s Conclusions recognise the increasingly serious impact of childhood asthma and underlines its serious effects on quality of life of children and of their families. The text it proposes a set of measures to be taken by Member States and the Commission in order to respond fully to this public health challenge.

The Council also adopted Conclusions on Patient Mobility and Health Care developments in the European Union. The Conclusions are intended to be the Council´s initial response to the Commission Communication of 20 April 2004 on the follow-up to the December 2003 report of the high level reflection process on patient mobility and health care developments in the European Union; and on the setting up by the Commission of a High Level Group on Health Services and Medical Care.

It reflects the Council´s concern on improving access to high quality and cost-effective health care, inviting the Member States to cooperate, exchange information and best practices and to develop measures to be taken in the field of health protection. The Commission is further invited to ensure coordination with international bodies such as the World Health Organisation.

Adoption of the Conclusions was followed by an exchange of views on patient mobility and other current healthcare developments including the Ministers´ views on a permanent mechanism reporting to the Council of Ministers to oversee health policy developments in the Community. During the discussion a number of Health Ministers expressed concern with regard to the potential impact of the proposed Directive on Services of General Interest on health services and healthcare delivery in the Member States.

The Council took note of the Decision on the negotiating directives for the Commission with a view to the revision of International Health Regulations within the framework of the World Health Organisation (WHO). The Decision sets out the negotiating directives for the Commission for the forthcoming round of regional consultations next week in Copenhagen. The Council also received progress reports from the Commission on discussions and consultations between Member States and the Commission on the draft text of the revised International Health Regulations under the framework of the World Health Organisation. The Council also noted the decision to ratify the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control of the WHO.

The Council also took note of progress reports on a proposal for a European Parliament and Council Regulation on Nutrition and Health Claims made on Food and on a proposal for a European Parliament and Council Regulation on the Addition of Vitamins, Minerals and other Substances to Food. The opinion of the European Parliament is still awaited on both of these proposals. The Council noted papers prepared by the Irish Presidency on Osteoporosis and Diabetes.

The Minister for Health and Children, Mr Micheál Martin TD said the exchange of views on the various topics had been positive, constructive and encouraging and said that he was confident that decisions taken at the Council would ensure further progress is made on the important issues on which agreement was reached to provide high quality healthcare to all the citizens of the European Union.