Minister for Health Micheál Martin welcomes the agreement of the European Parliament to establish a European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control
The European Parliament has now agreed on the establishment of a European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control in order to provide a structured and systematic approach to the control of communicable diseases which affect European Union citizens, and other serious heath threats which may arise.
The main task of the centre will be to combat risks of epidemics. It will be funded from the Community budget and based in Sweden and it is intended that the centre should be operational by 2005.
The Minister for Health Micheál Martin has welcomed the adoption of this proposal. He stated “The establishment of this Centre has been one of the priorities for the Irish EU Presidency. The Irish Presidency has worked hard to bring about a first reading agreement between the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. The risks posed by bio-terrorism, the fact that communicable diseases do not respect national boundaries and the speed with which public health threats spread around the globe, highlight the need for such a Centre in order to protect the health of European citizens. This necessity has been further evidenced by the current avian flu outbreak”.
The creation of the Centre should reduce the consequences of the fragmentation of action taken and facilitate the pooling of resources, competences and specialist knowledge.
This will improve the collection, evaluation and dissemination of data on current and emerging risks, whether of natural or criminal origin (such as bioterrorism). Its role will also include supporting public health programmes, including vaccinations and training measures, which are already in place in the Community.
The centre will become a reference point for epidemiological surveillance and the management of early warning systems at the EU level and will work in close cooperation with bodies such as the European Food Safety Authority and the World Health Organisation´s GORAN system, with NGOs and with professional organisations.
Six core tasks of the Centre for Disease Prevention and Control-
- Early Warning and Response – experts will be on hand around the clock to provide advice on alerts although the responsibility for acting on these will remain with Member States and the European Commission.
- Epidemiological surveillance and laboratory networking – to harmonise surveillance methodologies, to increase the comparability and compatibility of the surveillance data collected, to maintain networks of reference laboratories and to enhance the quality assurance schemes of microbiological laboratories.
- Scientific opinions – the centre will contribute scientific assessments and technical support to public health policies, based on the excellence of its in-house scientific expertise and that of its networks of experts in the Member States.
- Technical Assistance – the ECDC will provide an EU team of inspectors to investigate outbreaks where necessary.
- Preparedness against health emergencies – the wealth of expertise brought together under the ECDC will be used to support the development of EU level preparedness planning for health crises, such as an influenza pandemic or a bio-terrorist attack.
- Communicating on health threats – the ECDC will communicate about its activities and results to both the general European public and decision-makers in the EU´s Member States.