by Nora Laubstein

In the beginning there was the “new Green Deal”. In her inaugural speech in 2019, the new EU Commission President chose melodious words such as the “United Nations Sustainable Development Goals”, a “new departure for climate protection”, a “fairer agricultural policy” and, associated with this, the catchphrase of “health in all political areas”. Did Ursula von der Leyen suspect what would happen three months after her inaugural address? The little virus Covid turned many plans into emergency plans, changed budgets, lifestyles and freedom of travel.

The last EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety had already formulated clear priorities in his farewell speech: vaccinations, combating antibiotic resistance and infection protection - these are the building blocks of Europe-wide primary prevention! This bouquet of measures is garnished with the “fight against cancer plan”, “digital health” and the “elimination of inequalities”. Then Vytenis Andriukaitis resigned after five years, and Stella Kyriakidis took over the office. The new commissioner took up her position in autumn 2019, before the Covid pandemic. The estimated EU budget for health had been cut dramatically. Health is a matter of the country, said the nation states. But in connection with the pandemic, the situation changed: countering the risk together, investing in vaccines together. This gave rise to the desire for a new pharmaceutical strategy, which was quickly initiated. After the tough budget negotiations, the EU Commission now has an unprecedented budget of 5.1 trillion Euros at its disposal. First and foremost, the expenditure is to be used to combat the pandemic and its consequences. In doing so, those responsible discovered enormous deficits in administration and policy competence. In keeping with the sustainability goals and the slogan “Health in all policy areas”, since November 2020 the restructuring measures towards a European Health Union have been initiated on a strictly scientific basis.

In concrete terms, this means the establishment of a higher-level authority, called HERA = HEALTH EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS AND RESPONSE AUTHORITY. This new authority coordinates the work of three EU agencies: the ECDC in Stockholm (emergency medicine + infectious diseases), the EMA in Amsterdam (pharmaceuticals and medical devices) and the HaDEA (personal health data and digitization), which has been developing since April 1 of this year. What is happening here? Largely ignored by the media and thus unnoticed by EU citizens, a union is emerging within the European Union, so to speak. The matter becomes very exciting because the European agencies are generally short of money. At best, the EU provides 25% of the funding required - the remainder must be raised by the agencies with funds and staff from the private sector. The cooperation with the national states runs smoothly: the agencies at European level have a national pedant, an authority or a ministry in each member state. The national health ministers sit together as a group of EU Council ministers and thus determine the development of the new European Health Union.

In addition to fighting pandemics via vaccines, the brave new world of digitization is right at the top of the agenda. The webinars of the EU Commission, the General Directorate and the politically active are overflowing with digital formats for "online doctor", online apps for emergencies, retraining courses for online health professionals and online self-help groups. The state health economy systems demand digital concepts for vaccination cards, health insurance cards and digital self-control systems with bonus options. Growing personal doctor-patient loyalty is already considered to be too subjective, therefore unscientific and therefore a potential danger. In February 2000 the European Commission published a communication on the general application of the precautionary principle , in which this principle is defined and which now pervades all areas of public health care. Documentation, certification, proof of effectiveness and cost-benefit analysis serve one goal: Safety - supposedly for patients, but mostly to protect economic actors. Ultimately, a sick person remains on his own, or rather: Other treatment methods have to be paid for by you! The European Health Union is likely to be the starting signal for a renovation of the entire European Union. The terms "sustainability", "personal", "prevention", "health promotion", "access to medicines", “Competence”, “science” and even “holism” have already been incorporated into the new guidelines in the sense of economic interests and thus reinterpreted in terms of content.

What remains? What remains are old-fashioned things like “experience”, “empathy”, “spirituality”, “therapeutic freedom” or “individual approach”, which in the future could well be classified as dangerous. It is precisely at a time of the proclaimed pandemic that the ghosts of the control mania emerge: bureaucracy, paragraphs instead of life, the “right” attitude, the power of the fittest, fear and psychological stress. In addition to the cherished possibilities, digitization enables certain interest groups to simply EVERYTHING - and as the past shows, it depends on who gets the technology and how this person deals with it...