The Economic and Social Committee (EESC) adopted an Opinion at its plenary session on October 29-30 on the proposal to set up a European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Rapporteur Adrien Bedossa says that the Commission's July 23 proposal (COM(2003)441 final) is absolutely necessary and will be a boost to the EU's public health policy. However, the opinion questions the Commission's modest estimations in terms of numbers of staff and funding needed.
Mr Bedossa's report takes into account the growing number and changing nature of public health problems, ranging from the SARS epidemic and BSE crisis to asbestos exposure, pollution and global warming. Furthermore, it stresses that social protection against these threats varies widely between EU Member States and divergences are set to worsen with enlargement. The draft Opinion also notes that since the outbreak of SARS, support among Member States has grown considerably, not least due to the serious economic consequences of the disease on Asian economies and on European tourism and transport industries.
Mr Bedossa says that the EESC agrees "wholeheartedly" with the Commission's analysis of the definition of the remit of the Centre, which would be a Community Agency, like the European Food Safety Authority and the European Agency for the Evaluation of Medicinal Products, with which it will work closely. The Opinion concludes that the Centre will be a boost to EU public health policy. "There will be many more threats in the future on a range of front - chemical, toxic, climatological, viral or microbial", it says. "These will be aggravated by resistance to treatment, such as in the case of tuberculosis, AIDS, malaria and fast-acting hemorrhagic fevers."
However, the EESC has doubts over the Commission's modest financial and personnel estimates, which expect the Centre...