On 4 May 2020, the European Parliament’s IMCO Committee (Internal Market and Consumer Protection) held an exchange views with Margrethe Vestager, Commission Executive Vice-President, on the Europe's response to the COVID-19 crisis.
The debate touched upon a large array of issues, including digital technologies, contact tracing apps, possibilities for EU joint procurement for pharmaceutical products and the EU's industrial sovereignty.
During the debate, Margrethe Vestager insisted on few key points:
Medical supply chains
Digital technologies and strategic digital infrastructure
Support for SMEs
Multiannual Financial Framework (which is the EU’s long-term budget for 2021-2027)
In light with the topic of sovereignty in the area of pharmaceutical industry, Margrethe Vestager didn’t seem inclined to provide a comprehensive response to the issues at stake. However, we observe that there have been more and more initiatives for better organising and delivering health services and medical care at the EU level.
The crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic has brought to the forefront the fact that Europe’s supply of medicines is in the hands of companies located outside the European Union, especially in China and India. Although reaching EU health sovereignty in the field of medicines is needed for preventing the EU from any shortages in medicines, better EU public health policies and outcomes also rely on more diversified EU imports flows.
In addition, the proposal of forming a joint EU public procurement for pharmaceutical products would be a solution to ensure the supply of affordable medicines in the EU. It would enable a fairer access to certain medical countermeasures, improve security of supply and offer more balanced prices to participating EU countries.
Even though it was planned to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the EC’s 2020 Work Programme, Margrethe Vestager did not provide MEPs with further information on that side. As she is setting the strategic direction of the political priority "Europe Fit for the Digital Age", we could have expected to receive further information on the delay or postponing of key initiatives in areas such as research and innovation, data and artificial intelligence, industries and SMEs.