Archive pour la catégorie ‘Health’

What are the opportunities for European research?

Lundi 30 janvier 2012

A consultation on the European research shows the ways to make Europe more attractive for researchers, but also increasing transnationally-coordinated research; achieving higher scientific excellence; moving, working and co-operating freely across borders or tackling global challenges.

These are some of the key themes resulting from a public consultation on the European Research Area (ERA), which ended on 30 November 2011. The Commission will now decide which issues should be addressed as priorities when finalising the ERA Framework, to be tabled in June 2012 with a view to completing ERA by 2014. The findings were presented today by Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn at the “ERA conference 2012, Fostering Efficiency, Excellence and Growth” in Brussels.

Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said: “With Europe crying out for growth, ERA can’t wait any longer. We can’t continue with a situation where research funding is not always allocated competitively, where positions are not always filled on merit, where researchers can’t take their grants across borders, where large parts of Europe are not even in the game, where there is a scandalous waste of female talent and where our brightest and best are leaving never to return. I want an entirely new ERA-partnership, with stronger role for key stakeholders, and much tougher monitoring of Member States’ progress. I will not hesitate to “name and shame” those who perform badly against ERA objectives.”

The European Commission received 590 responses to the on-line questionnaire and 101 ad hoc position papers by national and European research organisations and governments. Respondents to the online survey indicated deficiencies in research careers and mobility as the most urgent priority. This was followed by problems relating to research infrastructures, knowledge transfer and cross-border collaboration. A broad majority of respondents also highlighted that a higher involvement of women in science will contribute to European socio-economic growth. In position papers, cross-border collaboration, international cooperation, as well as open access to publications and data were on a similar footing to researcher-related issues.

One of the main messages from the research community is the need to attract and retain more leading researchers in Europe and to provide researchers with better and especially business-relevant skills. The global attractiveness of Europe as a location for researchers and private R&D investment should also be increased by reducing the fragmentation of the European market, and by improving employment and career prospects for researchers. The lack of open and transparent recruitment procedures is regarded as one of the main barriers to internationally mobile researchers. It is also necessary to coordinate research at transnational level to raise research quality, reduce costs and tackle global challenges.

Background

The Commission is engaging with stakeholders to design an ambitious ERA Framework. At the European Council of 4 February 2011, EU heads of state and government endorsed the Commission’s proposal to create Innovation Union and called for the completion of the European Research Area by 2014 to create a genuine single market for knowledge research and innovation. The ERA Framework will focus on non-funding measures, while Horizon 2020 is the financial pillar of the Innovation Union.

Proposed in January 2000 by the European Commission in its communication “Towards a European Research Area” (COM(2000)6), and launched at the Lisbon European Council in March 2000, the creation of a European Research Area (ERA) was given new impetus in 2007 with the European Commission’s Green Paper on ERA (COM(2000)161), followed by the Ljubljana Process in 2008.

A new look for CORDIS

Lundi 23 janvier 2012

The site offers a new database for its projects.

The European Union has some of the world’s best research facilities and most accomplished researchers. Harnessing their full potential will help turn novel ideas into jobs, green growth and social progress. To facilitate this, the European Commission finances, either wholly or partially, a wide range of individual research and technology development projects. Details about many of these can be found on the Community Research and Development Information Service (CORDIS) - the primary information source for EU-funded projects.

A new Projects Service, launched on 16 January 2012, will enhance the role of CORDIS. Designed not only to be a comprehensive reference point for project participants, coordinators and stakeholders, the service will also make information and data available to wider audiences.

CORDIS has project records covering a myriad of science, technology and research-related fields and topics. Dating from before 1986 to the present, they relate to not only the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), but also previous Framework Programmes. The new service will use the breadth of the CORDIS repository as a base to bring together a wide variety of information related to individual projects, including:
- project details such as description, funding, programme;
- project results such as documents, reports, summaries;
- links;
- publications;
- multimedia;
- information and details on project participants.

The new Projects Service will unlock content, standardise the presentation of project information, and help users to find out more.

Project records are added to the database once they are made available to CORDIS by the Commission service responsible. The new service provides tools and pointers that can help filter and facilitate search queries.

Even when a project has finished, specific project information can help with result development, the planning of new initiatives, the indication of new research avenues and more.

The European Parliament wants tighter controls for phytosanitary products

Jeudi 19 janvier 2012

The main objective is to reduce hazards on the environment and human health.

Safer sofas

The updated legislation closes a loophole so that treated products - such as furniture sprayed with fungicide or anti-bacterial kitchen worktops - will be included under the rules and labelled. Agricultural pesticides will continue to be covered by other EU legislation.

Restricting harmful substances

The most problematic substances - such as those that are carcinogenic, affect genes or hormones or are toxic to reproduction - should in principle be banned. Exceptions should only be made in Member States where strictly necessary, for example if a biocide is needed to safeguard against a specific danger to health. Approvals and renewals will be time-limited, while safer alternatives are developed.

Concerned about possible risks of nanotechnology, MEPs secured separate safety checks and labelling for products containing nano-sized materials.

Opening up the market

The new legislation further harmonises the EU market for biocidal products and sets deadlines for applications to be assessed. The recognition of approvals among Member States will be improved and the possibility to apply for authorisation at EU level will be phased in from 2013, becoming possible for most biocidal products by 2020.

Reducing animal testing

To avoid duplicating tests on animals, companies will be required to share data in exchange for fair compensation

The European Commission focuses on the animal welfare

Jeudi 19 janvier 2012

The European Commission today adopted a new strategy for 2012-2015.

The need for change
EU Animal Welfare legislation, developed in response to contingencies and political demand over the past 3 decades, is often detailed and sector specific but sporadic in its coverage. Uneven application of these rules in the member States makes for an uneven playfield in this important economic sector. Viewed against the background of the diversity of climatic, terrain and farming systems in which it must be applied, this area of European law calls for change.

The new Strategy was adopted in the form of a Commission Communication to the European Parliament, the Council and the European Economic and Social Committee.

Why problems persist
The Commission Communication identifies the lack of enforcement of EU legislation by Member States in a number of areas as one of the major issues adversely affecting animal welfare in the EU. Another brake on full and even implementation is the fact that the market does not provide sufficient economic incentives for compliance.

The Communication also notes that many of the parties involved lack sufficient knowledge about animal welfare, while it points out gaps in EU legislation which make it harder to ensure adequate welfare conditions for some categories of animals.

Suggested Actions
To address these issues and concerns, the Strategy provides for a two-pronged approach: a proposal for a comprehensive animal welfare law and a reinforcement of current actions. The legislation to be proposed is expected to promote an innovative approach focusing on actual welfare outcomes instead of mechanistic inputs, and to increase the focus on the education and professional standards of all parties concerned.

The second element proposes a reinforcement and the optimisation of current Commission actions: enhancing tools to strengthen Member State compliance with the legal requirements; boosting the already existing international co-operation on animal welfare issues; providing consumers with better information, and performing studies where animal welfare appears to encounter the most problems.

Background
The Commission first adopted an Animal Welfare Strategy in 2006. The Community Action Plan on the Protection and Welfare of Animals 2006-2010, grouped the various aspects of EU policy on animal welfare governing the keeping of billions of animals for economic purposes.

The new Strategy builds on the old one and, in particular, on lessons learned during the five-year implementation period of the first Action Plan. The necessity of a new strategy becomes all too obvious with a glance at the importance of animals in our daily lives.

The farming sector is the largest, as far as use of animals is concerned. In farms across the EU, there are about two billion birds (chickens for meat production, laying hens, turkeys, ducks and geese) and three hundred million mammals (cows, pigs, sheep, etc.). The pet population is also quite large in the EU. It is estimated that there are about one hundred million dogs and cats in the Union. The annual value of livestock farming in the EU is estimated at approximately 150 billion euros. The Union’s contribution to support animal welfare is estimated at 70 million euros a year, either directed to farmers as animal welfare payments under rural development programmes or dedicated to other activities related to animal welfare, such as research, economic studies, communication, training and education etc.

The European Union is launching a European network for health services

Jeudi 22 décembre 2011

The European Commission today launched the network “Health online” to facilitate the application of patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare.

For the first time, EU legislation includes provisions on eHealth with clear objectives to find modern, innovative solutions for providing better and safer healthcare for all Europeans.

Neelie Kroes, European Commission Vice President for the Digital Agenda said The new eHealth Network promises to bring the health benefits of the digital economy to citizens across Europe. Interoperable eHealth can help improve the safety and efficiency of care of millions of Europeans who travel within the EU every year.

The Network’s mission
The Network will bring together the national authorities responsible for eHealth on a voluntary basis to work on common orientations for eHealth. The aim is to ensure EU wide interoperability of electronic health systems and wider use of eHealth. The eHealth Network is expected to translate the results of numerous research projects and pilot projects into real-life accessible services for European citizens.

Background
eHealth is healthcare practice supported by electronic processes and information communication technologies (ICTs) .

eHealth can play a central role in making health systems more efficient and effective by allowing for example remote diagnosis, remote monitoring of patients’ conditions and secure sharing of patient records between healthcare professionals. The eHealth Network will play a key role in facilitating the future development of such services across Europe.

Council Conclusions in 2009 called for an alignment of eHealth with health strategies both at EU and at National level. In 2010 a Joint Action and Thematic Network were launched under the Health Programme and the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme.

To ensure coordination, coherence and consistency of work on eHealth at EU level and to avoid duplication of work, article 14 of the Cross-border Healthcare Directive (2011/24/EU) of 9 March 2011 sets up the voluntary eHealth Network adopted by today’s Decision.

The eHealth network is mandated to draw up guidelines on a minimum set of common data to be included in patients’ summaries; on methods to enable the use of medical information for public health and medical research; and on common identification and authentication measures to ensure transferability of data in cross-border healthcare.

The European Union is committed more than ever to the Millennium Development Goals

Mercredi 21 décembre 2011

Additional support was given to 36 ACP countries in the fight against hunger, child mortality, maternal health and providing access to water.

This additional funding will focus on reducing hunger and child mortality and securing better maternal health and drinking water and sanitation facilities. With today’s decision the EU is delivering on its €1 billion MDG initiative, announced in September 2010, at the UN MDGs Summit in New York.

Examples of actions to be financed under the MDG initiative include:
- ensuring better access to food for the poorest households in Haiti
- providing milk to children in nurseries and primary schools in Rwanda
- increasing the number of healthcare professionals in Ghana to reduce maternal mortality
- improving access to save water in Samoa, mainly through rainwater harvesting and better sanitation facilities
The MDG initiative focuses on those African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries that have designed projects of high quality to achieve results in the areas where progress is most needed: hunger, water and sanitation, maternal health and child mortality. Today’s allocation amounts to 700€ million. Project proposals have been identified in partnership with the respective countries and are fully results-oriented: they put clear and measurable indicators in place to secure the benefits of the additional money.

Background
The MDG Initiative

The MDG initiative mobilises money from one of the EU’s main instruments of development aid, the 10th European Development Fund (EDF). It envisages a total extra financial effort of €1 billion. Regarding today’s allocation of €700 million, the European Commission and the EU delegations, in coordination with EU Member States representations and national authorities in the partner countries, will soon start working on the preparation of detailed project designs and specific financing proposals for all the actions to be supported by the MDG initiative, with a view to starting the implementation of most projects by the end of 2012. (For a full list of countries and targeted MDGs, see MEMO/11/930).

In parallel to today’s decision, approximately €300 million of the MDG initiative are in the process of being allocated as a reward to 18 well-performing countries, in the framework of the 10th EDF Mid-term Review.

Progress on the MDGs
The UN Millennium Goals Report 2011 confirms that the world has made significant progress on some of the goals. By 2015, global poverty is currently expected to fall below 15%, which is well below the target of 23%. Increased funding and intensive control efforts have led to a reduction of 20% of global deaths from malaria; HIV infections have been declining steadily and the availability of retroviral drugs for HIV/AIDS has increased massively in recent years. Important steps have been made globally towards providing universal primary education.

Consultation publique au sujet des personnes handicapées

Mardi 13 décembre 2011

The European Commission today launched a public consultation to develop future initiatives for people with disabilities.

The consultation will help the Commission to prepare its proposals for a European Accessibility Act, planned for autumn 2012. The initiative aims to ensure that people with disabilities have access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transport and to information and communication services. It will also benefit people with limited mobility, such as the elderly. The consultation – itself fully accessible – is aimed at gathering views from businesses, people with disabilities and the general public and will remain open until 29 February 2012.

The Commission adopted a comprehensive strategy last year to create a barrier-free Europe for disabled people by 2020 (IP/10/1505). The plan outlines how the EU and national governments can empower people with disabilities so they can enjoy their rights.

One of the key actions included was an accessibility initiative. The aim is to use standardisation or public procurement rules to make all goods and services accessible to people with disabilities while fostering an EU market for assistive devices. This market is expected to grow considerably in the coming years, following the experience in the United States.

A study by the UK’s Royal National Institute of the Blind showed that a £35 000 investment by a supermarket chain in making their website accessible brought in additional revenue of over £13 million a year. In Germany, a study found that more accessible facilities would increase travel by persons with disabilities, yielding between €620 million and €1.9 billion in additional turnover for the German tourism industry.

Background
One in six people in the European Union – around 80 million – have a disability that ranges from mild to severe. Over one third of people aged over 75 have disabilities that restrict them to some extent. These numbers are set to rise as the EU population grows progressively older. Most of these people are all too often prevented from fully participating in society and the economy because of physical or other barriers, as well as discrimination.

The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights says that the “Union recognises and respects the right of persons with disabilities to benefit from measures designed to ensure their independence, social and occupational integration and participation in the life of the community.” In addition, the EU and all its 27 Member States have already committed to creating a barrier-free Europe by signing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

‘Accessibility’ means that people with disabilities have access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, transportation, information and communications technologies and systems, and other facilities and services.

On 1-2 December 2011, the Commission organised a major conference in the context of the European Day of People with Disabilities, which also focused on the disability rights perspective of the economic crisis. During the conference, Vice-President Reding announced that Salzburg, in Austria, was the winner of the 2012 Access City award, the EU prize for accessible cities (IP/11/1492).

On 6 December 2011, leaders of the EU institutions came together for the first time with the European Disability Forum, at a high-level meeting, to discuss issues facing Europeans with disabilities (IP/11/1507).

The European Commission extended the challenge of wastewater treatment.

Mardi 13 décembre 2011

To comply with European regulations, water treatment generates large expenditures in infrastructure.

The aim is to ensure that human and industrial waste doesn’t adversely affect human health and the environment. The latest report on implementation of the Directive, for the period 2007/2008, shows that work is progressing well but that collection and treatment compliance rates could still improve. It reveals that most longstanding EU Member States (EU-15)1 maintained good standards of waste water treatment and improved on treatment of sensitive waters, while newer Members States (EU-12) improved on overall collection and treatment.

The main findings of the report are:

Most EU-15 urban waste water collection systems are very effective and capture 99% of their target waters
The total area designated as sensitive (eutrophic or at risk of becoming eutrophic), and requiring more stringent treatment, has increased from 68% to 73% since the last report. This could partially indicate an increase of eutrophic waters, but also that Member States better recognise and protect their sensitive waters.
There are still large variations regarding implementation of more stringent water treatment, but very high compliance rates have been reached in Austria, Netherlands and Germany; improvements were made in Denmark, Finland, France, Luxembourg and Sweden, and in the EU-12, especially in Lithuania.
Waste water treatment is well advanced in big cities, with more stringent treatment installations in place for 77% of such waste water. Some cities however still do not have adequate treatment, including four in the EU-15: Barreiro/Moita and Matosinhos in Portugal, Frejus in France, and Trieste in Italy

Next Steps
The Commission will assist Member States with financing projects using Cohesion Funds; also other EU institutions play an important role on financing, such as the European Investment Bank (EIB). Regarding enforcement, the Commission will take proactive steps to work with Member States when possible, but will also continue to take legal action against countries where implementation falls behind, especially in cases of serious implementation gaps and delays.

Background

The Urban Waste Water Directive requires waste water to be collected and treated in any area that generates the water pollution equivalent of a settlement of above 2000 people. There are almost 23,000 such areas in the EU 27, producing a total waste water pollution load of about 550 million population equivalents. Biological waste water treatment (‘secondary treatment’) is provided for in the Directive, and more stringent treatment is required for especially sensitive water areas that demand a higher level of protection.

For EU-15 Member States the Directive should have been be fully implemented at the time of the report, but EU-12 countries were granted extensions in their Accession Treaties. In 2007/08 Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Romania and Slovenia still had deadlines pending.

A Commission study in 2000 estimated that about €152 billion would be invested in waste water infrastructure over the period 1990-2010. EU funds have a key role in financing treatment and collection infrastructure, especially in the EU-12. The funds have previously helped countries such as Ireland, Spain, Italy and Greece achieve impressive improvements since the 1990s, in some cases quadrupling figures for secondary treatment.

The EU improves compliance levels via strict enforcement actions: in 2007 for instance, the Commission followed up on UWWT court rulings against Belgium, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom and Spain.

This is the sixth UWWT Directive implementation reports. After 20 years, wastewater treatment situation in Europe has improved significantly.

The Commission proposes a reduction of vehicle noise

Vendredi 9 décembre 2011

The Commission proposes to reduce these nuisances in two stages

Noise limit values would be lowered in two steps of each 2 dB(A) for passenger cars, vans, buses and coaches. For trucks the reduction would be 1 dB(A) in the first step and 2 dB(A) in the second step. The first step is to apply two years after the publication of the text once approved by the EP and Member States and the second step is foreseen three years thereafter. Altogether, these measures will reduce vehicle noise nuisance by some 25%. In addition, the Commission intends to introduce a new and more reliable test method to measure sound emissions. Moreover it is proposed that electric and hybrid electric vehicles can be fitted optionally with sound generating devices which would make these cars safer. Noise emissions limits have not changed since 1996 despite increasing traffic.

The World Health Organisation concluded that traffic related noise may account for 1 million healthy years of life lost per year in Western Europe. Hence, reduction of traffic noise is essential to improve the health and quality of life of Europe’s citizens.

Today’s proposal will significantly reduce the levels of environmental noise and consequently the number of people affected by it.

Background
New noise limits measured with a new test method
The proposal on reducing vehicle noise includes passenger cars, vans (light commercial vehicles), buses, light trucks, coaches and heavy trucks. It will ensure that the noise levels of new vehicles will be measured by a new and more reliable test method.

To this end, so-called additional sound emission provisions (ASEP) will be included. These are preventive requirements which will ensure that the sound emissions of a vehicle under street driving conditions will not differ significantly from what can be expected from the type-approval test result for this specific vehicle.

Electric and hybrid electric vehicles
So-called ‘Approaching Vehicle Audible Systems’ requirements shall ensure that only adequate sound generating devices are used which will also lead to a harmonisation of the applied technology. The fitting as such would remain an option for the vehicle manufacturer. This will increase road safety and undoubtedly help avoiding road-accident injuries.

A global benefit
Having the same basic rules throughout the EU makes it easier to buy, sell and use vehicles in any Member State – and ensures equal health, safety and environmental standards across the EU.

With this proposal the current EU rules applicable to noise emissions from vehicles will be updated and further aligned with internationally recognised UN standards. This should enable to improve market access for European car manufacturers in those third countries which are contracting parties to the UNECE Agreement of 1958 and thus boost the competitiveness of European industry.

The proposal of the European Commission is now to be submitted to the European co-legislators, the European Parliament and to the Council.

The European Commission proposes a series of proposals against the various health threats

Jeudi 8 décembre 2011

 European funds

Related EU Grant Loans Programme(s):
 Grants awarded via the programme of Community action of public health

Building on lessons learned with recent crises such as the H1N1 pandemic, the volcanic ash cloud and the outbreak of E. coli, the Commission is proposing the means to address such crises.

The main measures proposed include:

- to extend the existing co-ordination mechanism for communicable diseases to all heath threats caused by biological, chemical or environmental causes;
- to reinforce the mandate of the Health Security Committee;
- to strengthen preparedness for crises e.g. by enabling joint purchasing of vaccines;
- to provide the means to recognise a European “health emergency situation” for the purpose of making medicines available faster;
- and to agree on European wide emergency cross border measures when a crisis results in large scale mortality and national measures fail to stop the disease from spreading.

Biological, chemical or environmental factors can trigger serious cross border health threats. Such threats can materialise as diseases that spread from person-to-person such as flu, food and water-borne diseases such as botulism, infections with E. coli or result from extreme weather conditions like heat waves or cold spells. In recent years, the European Union has gone through various crises of this kind. Building on the Early Warning and Response System for communicable diseases created in 1998, the Commission’s proposal puts forward measures to strengthen the response to serious cross-border threats in the EU.

Background
The European Commission has developed capacities to manage health crises and has established a series of policies, mechanisms and instruments to tackle serious cross-border health threats. Tailored policies have been put in place depending on the nature of the threat, with for example: a focus on civil protection, law enforcement or support structures.

However, until now, different types of serious cross-border threats to health have not been treated in a consistent manner at EU level. Threats emerging from biological, chemical and environmental events are not addressed in the same way as those from communicable diseases.

The present proposal builds on existing structures and further strengthens them through the following:

1. Extends the assessment of risks and the co-ordination of measures from communicable diseases to all heath threats caused by biological, chemical or environmental causes.
During a health crisis it is essential to know the nature of the threat, how it is spreading, how fast and widely, to be able to limit the spread and health effects, and to provide up-to-date information and advice to citizens. There is already a network in place for the epidemiological surveillance of communicable diseases composed of the European Commission, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and national authorities. With the new proposal, this expertise is extended to other serious cross-border health threats. Should such a threat occur, networks can be set up on an ad hoc basis to exchange information, assess the risks involved, pooling scientists and expertise.

2. Strengthens the role of the Health Security Committee to better co-ordinate measures to fight a health crisis
In 2001, after the terrorist attacks and deliberate release of anthrax toxins in the United States, the EU Health Security Committee was set up by EU Health Ministers. Since then, the committee has supported the coordination of responses to public health crises at EU level by coordinating risk assessment and management of serious cross-border health threats. The proposal formalises and gives a broader mandate to the Committee which includes providing advice to Member States and the Commission on both policy and technical issues relating to health security.

3. Beefs up preparedness to fight a crisis
Having a preparedness plan in place on what do to when a health crisis strikes is essential to halt the crisis. The Commission’s proposal foresees that every Member State coordinates its efforts to develop, strengthen and maintain its national preparedness and response plan, in consultation with other Member States. Such plans include e.g. measures to improve access to medical countermeasures, and co-ordination with other key sectors. Member States also respect guidelines put forward by the Commission, which will co-ordinate the process. Such guidelines may relate to health measures or communication with the public. The proposal also provides a basis for joint voluntary purchasing of vaccines and other medical countermeasures for the Member States that are interested.

4. Provides the means to recognise a European “health emergency situation” for the purpose of making medicines (needed to curb a crisis) available faster
The proposal foresees that, when a life threatening disease that can be prevented by vaccines or cured by medicines is spreading rapidly in Europe and the World Health Organisation has not yet declared the “emergency” situation, the EU can recognise a European health emergency, for the sole purpose of authorizing new medicines faster or changing the indication of a medicine. Under existing EU legislation, the European Commission needs to wait for the WHO to declare an international emergency across continents. This provision seeks to address situations where a disease is spreading across Europe (not on a world scale) and lives can be saved with pharmaceuticals.

5. European emergency cross border measures
The proposal foresees that, in very specific emergency situations, resulting in people dying or hospitalised in a large scale, and when Member States’ measures prove insufficient to control the spread across borders, the Commission adopts emergency cross border measures e.g. related to containment of an outbreak, or the screening of infected citizens.