Brussels, 28 Jan 2004
The European Parliament's Environment and Public Health Committee has adopted a report on a Commission proposal for the creation of a European centre for disease prevention and control.
The decision follows the unprecedented spread of the highly infectious bird flu in South East Asia, and comes in the wake of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which is believed to have claimed the lives of over 700 people during the spring and summer of 2003. Diseases such as these, as well as AIDS, malaria and meningitis, cannot be prevented from crossing boarders, and are spreading with increasing ease as a result of population movements and trade expansion.
The centre will be funded with 48 million euro for the first three years, and will also have a reserve budget, enabling it to respond quickly in an emergency. It will replace the 'EU communicable diseases network', in existence since 1999, which acts as a channel for occasional cooperation between Member States as and when they wish to take measures against epidemics and other health risks. Recent studies have revealed the long term limitations of this arrangement, including the continued fragmentation of resources. The new centre would seek to overcome these divisions, and to develop and implement projects more coherently. It will also increase compatibility between research results and methods from different national laboratories.
In its proposals, the Commission emphasises that the centre is not intended to replace national bodies, but to provide them with independent and reliable technical assistance and scientific opinions.