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MEP Vasile Blaga: EU response to future health crises and progress of national recovery and resilience plans, important issues on EP agenda

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MEP Vasile Blaga  (EPP) argues that the September plenary session of the European Parliament should debate as a priority the EU’s instruments in the face of health and humanitarian crises, as well as the progress of National Recovery and Resilience Plans.

According to the MEP, the European Parliament is putting on the agenda extremely important issues for the future of the Union.

„I believe that an EU response to the effects of the COVID 19 pandemic is vital. The future of the Union must find us prepared for potential health threats similar to the coronavirus pandemic. We can all see that a health emergency of the scale of the present one can only be managed by joint measures taken by all Member States. This unfortunate experience of the last two years has shown us the fragility of the EU in the face of external health threats. We need to learn from this so that the negative social and economic effects will not be repeated in the future”, said Vasile Blaga in a statement to CaleaEuropeană.

A second priority, says the EPP MEP, is linked to an accelerated recovery of the EU economies: “National recovery and resilience plans must be urgently adjusted and approved so that investment policies become engines of development in each Member State and, as a whole, kick-start the EU economy as a whole. The European Parliament must closely follow, also during this session, the progress of the national recovery plans and the way each Member State spends the money allocated by the NRRP to achieve the objectives listed in the Recovery and Resilience Facility”, added Vasile Blaga.

Diana Zaim este foto jurnalist, câștigătoare a Premiul Publicului la European Youth Event 2020, cel mai mare eveniment pentru tineri organizat de Parlamentul European. Absolventă a secției germană-portugheză în cadrul Universității din București, Diana urmează în prezent programul de master ”Relații Internaționale și Integrare Europeană” în cadrul SNSPA. Pasionată de promovarea valorilor europene, Diana este parte a comunității Model European Union, cea mai amplă simulare la nivel european a procesului decizional din cadrul Uniunii Europene.

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Ambassador Ion I. Jinga, Permanent Representative of Romania to the United Nations: ”Our Common Agenda: A Peacebuilding Perspective”

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© Reprezentanța Permanentă a României la ONU

Opinion article signed by Ion I. Jinga, Ambassador, Romania’s Permanent Representative to the UN

Motto: “Our problems are man-made, therefore they may be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings” – John F. Kennedy

In September 2020 the world leaders committed to upgrading the United Nations and tasked the Secretary-General to produce a report on how to respond to current and future challenges. One year later, António Guterres responded with his report on Our Common Agenda(General Assembly document A/75/982), presenting proposals on twelve areas of action: “leave no one behind, protect the planet, promote peace, abide by international law, place women and girls at the centre, build trust, improve digital cooperation, upgrade the United Nations, ensure sustainable financing, boost partnerships, work with youth, and be prepared”.

Our Common Agenda report is one of the most far-reaching and comprehensive strategies ever produced by the UN. It was crafted on the basis of consultations involving over 1.5 million people, including national and local governments, business community, young people and civil society, from 147 countries. It looks ahead to the next decades and represents a vision on the future of global cooperation based on inclusive, networked, and effective multilateralism.  

In a nutshell, Our Common Agenda is set under four headings: strengthening global governance, focusing on the future, renewing the social contract between governments and people, and ensuring a UN fit for a new era. It tackles “the triple planetary emergency” (climate disruption, biodiversity loss and pollution destroying our planet), social equity, human rights and implementation of the sustainable development goals.

Our Common Agenda is not focused on the United Nations, and the States are not the only actors in the picture; it is primality about people, partnerships and results, and provides a 360 degrees analysis of the state of the world, with 90 specific recommendations. For those who are familiar with the Secretary-General’s priorities during his first term, this approach is not a surprise, being anticipated by the report “Shifting the management paradigm at the UN:  ensuring a better future for all” (document A/72/492) presented to the General Assembly in September 2017, which encapsulates António Guterres’ concept of “networked multilateralism” : “The UN works hand in hand with regional organizations, international financial institutions, development banks, specialized agencies and civil society, in order to bring multilateralism closer to people”.

It is also worth to note that during his first term a key-word was “prevention”. Now, Our Common Agenda refers to a key-triangle: “prevention – adaptation – resilience”.

Maintaining peace and security is at the core of the UN Charter. But today peace and security is more than avoiding war. It implies safeguarding the global commons, mitigating climate change, managing public health and the global economy, making the internet affordable to all, and ensuring sustaining peace – a new concept mentioned for the first time in the second review of the UN peacebuilding architecture (twin resolutions A/RES/70/262 and S/RES/2282 (2016)): “Sustaining peace should be broadly understood as a goal and a process to build a common vision of a society, aimed at preventing the outbreak, escalation, continuation and recurrence of conflict, addressing root causes, assisting parties to conflict to end hostilities, ensuring national reconciliation, and moving towards recovery, reconstruction and development.”

Under this paradigm, peacebuilding is no longer a post-conflict phase but a part of the new concept of “peace continuum”: it happens before, during and after a conflict. Our Common Agenda confirms this view: “To protect and manage the global public good of peace, we need a peace continuum based on a better understanding of the underlying drivers that sustain conflict, a renewed effort to agree on more effective collective security responses and a meaningful set of steps to manage emerging risks.”

In order to achieve these aims, a New Agenda for Peace is envisaged and the Member States are called to consider “allocating a dedicated amount to the Peacebuilding Fund from assessed contributions, initially through the peacekeeping budget and later through the regular budget”. This is in line with the proposal the Secretary-General made his 2020 report on peacebuilding and sustaining peace (twin resolutions A/74/976 and S/773 (2020)): “Member States commit the equivalent of 15% of the final full-year budget of a closing peacekeeping mission to be contributed to peacebuilding activities each year for a period of two years following the end of a mission mandate.”

On December 21st, 2020 the third review of the UN peacebuilding architecture (twin resolutions A/RES/75/201 and S/RES/2558 (2020)) reconfirmed that peacebuilding financing remains a critical challenge and decided to convene a high-level meeting of the UN General Assembly at the 76th session: “to advance, explore and consider options for ensuring adequate, predictable and sustained financing for peacebuilding”. Undoubtedly, the peace continuum and the appropriate funding for the Peacebuilding Fund are top peacebuilding priorities.

Therefore, the New Agenda for Peace might encourage Member States to commit more resources for prevention, including by tailoring development assistance to address root causes of conflict, upholding human rights and linking disarmament to development opportunities. As Rosemary DiCarlo, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, pointed out at the 10th Ministerial Conference of the Communities of Democracies, chaired by Romania, on September 22nd, 2021: “Conflict prevention is less costly in human lives and resources than picking up pieces after war. Prevention also means helping to build peaceful and resilient societies – the fundamental goal of the Sustainable Development Agenda.”

Our Common Agenda mentions the Peacebuilding Commission contribution to reshaping responses by the UN to multidimensional threats, and suggests to expanding its role to addressing the cross-cutting issues of security, climate change, health, gender equality, development and human rights, from a prevention perspective. Peacebuilding should also focus on placing women, girls and youth at the heart of peace and security policy, and on the UN transition missions.

Women and youth empowerment, cross-border and regional peacebuilding and support to the transition of UN peace operations are the three priority-windows assigned to the Secretary-General’s Peacebuilding Fund. These have been reconfirmed in September 2021 by the Security Council first-ever stand-alone resolution on the transition that follows deployment of United Nations peacekeeping missions (S/2594 (2021)), which: “underlines that the transition of UN peace operations should support peacebuilding objectives and the development of a sustainable peace, in a manner that supports and reinforces national ownership, national priorities and needs of the host State and its population, and includes engagement with the local community and civil society, with the full, equal and meaningful participation of women, youth and persons with disabilities.”

Interdependence is the logic of the 21st century. In order to remain effective, the UN needs to become a platform to foster the networked multilateralism envisaged by the Secretary-General. On October 24th, the Organization celebrates its 76 anniversary; the day after, Member States will gather in the General Assembly to discuss Our Common Agenda report and to agree on the follow up. Our Common Agenda will only be achieved if all Member States are genuinely on board. The adoption of a procedural resolution to provide the framework for continuing inclusive consultations would certainly help to keep the momentum.

Post scriptum:

When he presented “Our Common Agenda” to the General Assembly on September 10th, 2021, António Guterres confessed: “I am an engineer. I believe in the infinite capacity of the human mind to solve problems. When we work together, there is no limit to what we can achieve”. I share the belief that problems we have created are problems we can solve. Like him, a long time ago, I was an engineer in Physics.

Note: The opinions expressed in this article do not bind the official position of the author nor do they necessarily reflect the editorial views of CaleaEuropenă.ro.

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Romania has one of the worst performances in the EU when it comes to access to treatments for rare diseases

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To give hope to the 30 million Europeans living with a rare disease, all key players in the health sector, together with the European institutions and the Member States, are trying to step up their collaboration to ensure that patients have on-time access to currently available treatments. The News Platform www.caleaeuropeana.ro brings you the latest updates at European level on patient access to orphan drugs, but especially the situation of Romanian patients, who according to statistics, are among the EU citizens who have access to the fewest innovative treatments and are waiting the longest time for their approval on the market.

Rare diseases are serious conditions, usually of genetic origin, most of which develop in childhood and lead to severe illness in adult life: 1 in 3 children with a rare disease die before their 5th birthday and many more live with debilitating disabilities.

To address this situation and to ensure that patients suffering from rare diseases have access to medication, the “Orphan Medicinal Products (OMP) Regulation” was adopted 20 years ago, introducing specific legislation, a definition of OMP and a specific committee responsible for OMP at the European Medicines Agency (EMA), as well as incentives to promote the development of treatments for rare diseases.

The introduction of the above legislation, together with scientific advances, has led to a wave of new treatment options for rare disease patients.

Since the adoption of the Orphan Drug Regulation in 2000, more than 160 OMPs had been approved by the EMA up to 2018.

Despite considerable success so far, there is still a high unmet medical need for rare diseases: only 5% of rare diseases are estimated to have an approved treatment and much remains to be done, not only because of the low prevalence but also because many rare diseases are very complex from a scientific research perspective. Despite this, the existing legal framework has proven its effectiveness (8 orphan drugs approved by 2000, over 160 between 2000-2018). Maintaining the right regulatory, scientific and economic environment for the development of orphan drugs is essential to the mission of developing new treatments for ~95% of rare diseases without a treatment option today.

Romania is lagging behind when it comes to access to treatments for rare diseases. In the European context, our country has one of the worst performances:

There are challenges in terms of access to new orphan treatments and considerable inequalities between the Member States. According to the EFPIA PATIENT W.A.I.T. 2020 indicator (published in 2021), more than 80% of orphan drugs still remain unavailable for many Member States, including Romania, and patients can access them only a few hundred days after official EMA approval.

By 1 January 2021, 13 treatments for rare diseases will be available in Romania, out of a total of 47 adopted by the European Medicines Agency in the period 2016-2019. Therefore, our country has access to only 29% of all orphan drugs, below the European average of 41%. In this sector, Germany is the leader among the Member States in terms of access to orphan drugs, with 45 treatments available to German citizens out of the 47 total approved by the EMA (in the above-mentioned period).

Romanian citizens are three times less likely to benefit from an orphan treatment than a German citizen, but on top of that, for the 13 medicines they can access, they wait on average 868 days, 762 days more than a German citizen.

Germans are the EU citizens who wait the shortest period of time for an innovative treatment that can treat their rare condition, or at least make their life easier. A Romanian suffering from the same rare disease as a German citizen will have to wait on average more than 2 years to start a treatment dedicated to his disease that will give him a chance to live. In turn, a German suffering from the same disease as a Romanian citizen will have to wait on average only 3 months.

All these inequalities among patients in the European Union are to be addressed by new strategies and programmes at European level. To this side, the European Commission has launched the Pharmaceutical Strategy for Europe, which is an ambitious project to strengthen the patient focus of the European pharmaceutical system and make it resilient to future health crises. It was adopted last November as a pillar of the European Health Union.

The Orphan Drug Regulation can play a role in a future EU industrial strategy, helping to promote sustainable innovation. Simply revising the existing intellectual property incentives in the current version of the regulation, designed to support research into new treatment options, will not improve patient access – now or in the future, without understanding the root causes that lead to delays in access to national markets for orphan drugs.

The hopes raised by new treatments can only be achieved if there is also correct and early diagnosis in both children and adult patients. The success and value of the regulation in stimulating the development of new treatments can only be fully realised if patients have access to them, together with the full range of complementary medical services.

Ensuring patients’ access to the new treatments of today and tomorrow should be a shared goal and responsibility. It requires regulators, health system partners, patients, governments and industry working together to find new ways to fund these innovative treatments and to ensure patient access and sustainability of health systems at national level.

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The photo taken by CaleaEuropeană.ro photojournalist Diana Zaim, exhibited in the European Parliament during EYE2021

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Diana Zaim, the photojournalist of CaleaEuropeană.ro, is the winner of the Public Prize in the photo competition European Youth Event 2020, the largest event for young people in Europe, organized by the European Parliament.

„I am delighted to be here in Strasbourg today. For me this photo represents the image of the European Union, it represents the future of the young generation, which is ready to get involved in reshaping the future of the European project. I am glad that it may have been a source of inspiration for the European Executive when it chose to launch the financial instrument for Member States’ recovery from the pandemic, which it called #NextGenerationEU. The photo refers to the young generation EU. I would like to thank everyone for their appreciation and support. I am happy to be able to promote the values that really matter, the European values,” said Zaim Diana at EYE2021 in Strasbourg.

Diana Zaim’s picture, with the theme “The future is now for the young generation”,  has a greater number of views (over 120,000), as well as appreciations (over 4,000).

For Diana “The future is now for the YOUNG GENERATION because we represent a point of reference in the future of our Union. We want to grow up and live through European values, that unite us and never gonna divide us again”. 

The picture was taken during the manifesto “Everyone for Europe”, an event organized on May 19, 2019 in Bucharest, which aimed to motivate the citizens to go to vote in the European elections on May 26.

Every two years, the European Youth Event (EYE) brings together at the European Parliament in Strasbourg thousands of young people from all over the European Union and beyond to shape and share their ideas on the future of Europe. It is a unique opportunity for 16 to 30 years olds to meet and inspire each other and exchange their views with experts, activists, influencers and decision-makers right in the heart of European democracy.

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