Introduction to ‘Health and the European Commission’
The European Commission is the executive arm of the European Union.
There are 27 Commissioners, 1 from each Member State. The Commissioners do not represent their Member States and must remain independent. This commitment is made in an oath taken before the European Court of Justice. The oath taken by the Barroso Commission is available here. Each Commissioner has a particular portfolio ranging from Energy, Economic and Monetary Affairs, and Transport to Climate Action, Trade, and Environment.
The Commissioners have a personal cabinet and each portfolio has a Directorate General.
The Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy is Maltese national, John Dalli. Dalli is an experienced politician, first elected to the House of Representatives in Malta in 1987. He has served as Minister for Economic and Monetary Affairs, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Investment and Minister for Finance.
The competence of the European Union in regard to health is somewhat limited as it remains generally a competence of the EU Member States.
However, the Maastricht Treaty (TEU) made public health an official EU competence for the first time, though subject to considerations of subsidiarity. It stated that…” the EU shall contribute towards ensuring a high level of human health protection by encouraging cooperation between Member States and, if necessary, lending support to their action. Action shall be directed towards the prevention of diseases, in particular the major health scourges, including drug dependence, by promoting research into their causes and their transmission, as well as health information and education. Health protection requirements shall form a constituent part of … other policies.”
More information can be found here.
The European Commission’s role in promoting a healthier Europe is now well established and whilst its competence is still limited, there can be little doubt that the EC has a major part to play in improving healthcare across Europe.