Health Union for Universal Right, Common Public Good, Justice and Fraternity.
Mr. President of the European Parliament,
Ladies and Gentlemen, Presidents of the Parliamentary Groups
Parliament has approved the creation of a European Health Union (EU4Health)
proposed by the European Commission in the framework of the seven-year
programme 2021-2027 and which entered into force on 26 March.
euros have been allocated. It’s not large as a percentage of the EU budget
(1,100 billion euros for the seven years), but it shows a significant political
commitment by the EU for the years to come. EU4Health is an important idea in the
perspective of a) the realisation of the universal right to health, with
justice, b) the safeguarding of health as a global public good and c) effective
global solidarity and brotherhood among all the inhabitants of the Earth. In the current context of economic rivalry,
the monopolization of vaccines by the richest, injustice and war, there is no
health in the world.
President, we believe that the European Parliament has a decisive role to play
in the implementation of the European Health Union, and that it is the most
important and deserving one. For the EHU is marked by a few “genetic”
defects to which we wish to draw your attention and that of your colleagues,
and call on your intervention now. They are:
A profound inversion of values
The affordable and equitable access
to health. It’s not the right approach
The patent-centred pharmaceutical
strategy is a defeat of the res publica, the common good, justice
The shrinking sovereignty of the
The inter-governmental and
international model of governance of the European Union.
profound inversion of values.
text of the European Health Union starts from the principle that “health
is a necessary and essential condition for economic growth“. No
mention is made of the founding principle of any health policy, i.e. the
universal right to health. Health has a
value in itself. To be legitimate, it does not need to be an instrument in the
service of other ends given as superior, because health is life, it symbolises life. Adding the colour
“green”, as reality proves, is not enough.
More than 30
years ago, this profound inversion of values was already carried out in
relation to sustainable development. You may remember it. The concept of SD was
developed and proposed as an alternative, as an opposition, or even as a revolt
against the destructive development of nature and the devastation of human
relations and human rights throughout the world (beyond a few local sectoral
and territorial advances). However, the opposition of the business and
financial world of the time to SD, as well as of certain powerful states, meant
that the famous Brundtland Report (“Our Common Future“, 1987)
of the UN International Commission on Sustainable Development was never
formally approved by the UN. Moreover, the UN was obliged to only agreed to
release it as an analytical document after an imposed compromise consisting of
stating in the introduction to the report that “sustainable development
is a necessary and important condition for economic growth“! We know
what sustainable development has become in this context. Environmental and
climatic disasters have continued to worsen in tandem with ‘global economic
growth’. So much so that the scientific world now considers that the Covid-19
pandemic is, among other things, linked to the breakdown of the
“borders” between the Earth’s living species caused by our
“global economic development”. It is unconscionable, Mr.
President, to allow health to fall victim to the same inversion of values.
The approach of affordable and
equitable access to health is not the right answer.
As the right
to health has been forgotten, the European Health Union gives priority to
“access to health care for all on an equitable and affordable basis“.
This principle is in line with the line of thinking that has been asserted
since the 1990s and that is at the basis of the UN Global Agenda 2000-2015
“Millennium Development Goals” and reused for the Agenda
2015-2030 “Sustainable Development Goals”.) Regardless of the
goal, both agendas rarely speak of universal rights but systematically insist
on equitable and affordable access. This is still the case for the “Global
Response to Coronavirus” launched in March 2020 under the G2O and
supported by the WHO with strong support from the EU and other countries in the
“rich” world. The EU President’s statements at the launch of the
“Response” leave no room for ambiguity: “We need to develop a
vaccine, produce it and distribute it worldwide. And we need to make it
affordable“. Global response to coronavirus: EU calls for donations
price:affordable access to health does not mean guaranteeing the universal right
to health. The goal of equitable access does not imply the levelling of health
differences between individuals, and not all inequalities that can be found are
necessarily perceived as unfair! There is a difference between equity and
justice. Inequalities in income and purchasing power are not questioned in the
face of the right to health, the only thing that the public authorities ask of
companies, of the market, is that the price should not be exclusionary, which
happens regularly. As we know, millions and millions of people stop getting
health care, get it wrong or never got it at all because of the price of
medicines and medical services.
access means that no one can have access to pandemic treatments and vaccines
unless they pay a price set, reportedly after negotiation with public
authorities, by the companies that hold the patent. It does not matter whether
the price is paid by the user/customer or, for him, by other subjects (public
authorities, social and charitable organisations).
access to health care for all in a fair and affordable way is a systemic
hoax. For 30 years, this approach has never made it possible to reduce
inequalities and eliminate injustices with regard to human and social rights
(health, water, food, housing, education, etc.). Can the European
Parliament endorse such a hoax?
patent-centred pharmaceutical strategy is a defeat of the “res
publica”, of the common good, of justice, of freedom.
pillar of the European Health Union is based on the pharmaceutical strategy,
i.e. the EU’s capacity to produce, use and market all health-related
instruments (tests/diagnostics, medicines, vaccines, etc.) with the aim of
safeguarding and promoting technological innovation and the competitiveness of
the European economy on world markets. In this perspective, a key role is
played by patents (private intellectual property rights), which grant companies
the right of ownership and exclusive use for 17 to 20 years of the knowledge
incorporated in medical products. Thus, thanks to more than 60,000 patents on
life (and, in a similar quantity, in the field of artificial intelligence) all
forms of life have fallen under the control of private “life
It is not by
chance that the European Health Union is also focused on prioritising the
digitalisation of the economy. Digitalisation amplifies the processes of
marketisation and privatisation of health.
context, the health policy of the EU4HEALTH is caught in a constraining
framework that prioritises growth and techno-economic power for the conquest of
global markets and financial returns. This is the actual meaning of the
multiple forms of struggles over patents and access to vaccines labelled as
“vaccine nationalisms”. Health has been transformed into a field of
“economic wars” and political rivalries even within the EU. Not to
mention the exacerbation of conflicts between the US and China, the EU and
China and, tomorrow, probably between the US and the EU. For the time being,
the US considers any country that is not an ally/submissive country as a
systemic enemy. For her part, the President of the European Commission stated a
few days ago that China is a systemic enemy of Europe.
If you think
about it, the patent-centric pharmaceutical strategy is contradictory and
losing for Europe. It transfers real decision-making power in the field of
health to the global patent-holding companies (about ten worldwide). Far from
safeguarding the autonomy/independence of the EU, the “pharmaceutical
strategy” has thrown the EU states into the arms of Big Pharma, which
respond first and foremost to the needs of their markets and the interests of
their investors. Let us recall the statements in this sense made by the CEO of
Sanofi last May, to which French President Macron could only show irritation
life imprison States. They are the padlock to any public vision and policy on
health and the most powerful means to prevent the dissemination of research and
knowledge, as well as the accessibility of vaccines in justice and solidarity.
The Covax system remains a structurally inadequate financial tool. It also
retains the alleged legitimacy of the dominance of rich countries, which
provide aid and assistance, over poor countries, which, moreover, must prove their eligibility for aid! What a
mystification when one considers that rich countries are also forcefully and
stubbornly refusing the request of more than 100 “poor” countries
mporarily suspend patent rules. What cynical hypocrisy!
the problem, not the solution. Mr. President, patents must be abolished without
delay, also in the name of the fundamental values of justice and fraternity.
Maintaining patents will be judged in the not too distant future as a crime
against humanity, because health is a global public good.
shrinking sovereignty of the people
The European Health
Union does not seem to care much about the loss of sovereignty of the people in
where is the sovereignty of the people, of the European people in the field of
health in terms of technological, economic, social and cultural policies? European citizens have been mobilised since
last November in favour of the European Citizens’ Initiative-ECI
“Right2Cure”. We are one of the organisations actively
participating in the ECI and are engaged in collecting the one million
signatures needed for the Initiative proposals to be taken into account by the
European Commission. However, in the light of what the European Health Union is
today, there is a great risk that, if the ECI is successful, the Commission
will reply that it is already committed within the EU4HEALTH to the
necessary and indispensable measures to guarantee all Europeans access to
health care! This is what happened to the ECI for the right to water and water
as a common good, rendering “useless” the expressed will of more than
one million citizens in favour of water as a human right and public good.
We ask, Mr.
President, that the European Parliament take the measures at its disposal to
prevent this unfortunate experience from being repeated on the subject of
health. The credibility of effective
democracy within the Union, which has already been seriously undermined, is at
The inter-governmental and
international model of governance of the European Union.
with the EU treaties, which stipulate that, in the field of health, the primary
competence lies with the States, the EU4HEALTH limits itself to talking
about EU health policy in terms of promoting and improving the coordination of
national policies with the aim of facilitating and increasing their
effectiveness and results in the interests of all the Member States. In practice, the EU4HEALTH excludes
any attempt to move towards the implementation of a common European health
policy. Yet, the worsening global health crisis is pushing strongly towards
greater integration of policies and resources at European and global level to
address challenges and problems that know no borders. By remaining confined to
the clearly inadequate and conflicting inter-governmental and international
framework, the European Health Union will fuel division, fragmentation and conflict
in the name of ‘me first’. It will be difficult to avoid a situation of
permanent turbulence dictated by selfishness, hypocrisy and cynicism. Moreover,
the EU is already having great
difficulty in maintaining its original commitment to “Leave no one
behind” at the European and especially the global level. The
trend towards inter-governmentalism of rival sovereignties, especially in such
important human and social areas as health, within the framework of a
globalised capitalist market economy, will eventually lead to the ‘political’
disappearance of the Europe-community.
The number of hundreds of millions of human beings who are already
left behind around the world, also because of the measures adopted by the EU,
will only increase. Avoidable? Yes, if we want it to be.
Gentlemen Presidents of the Parliamentary Groups, we thank you for the
attention you will give to our letter.
the major role of the European Parliament in favour of the right to health for
all, we ask you to accept the expression of our best and most respectful