Following the opening plenary, I managed to make my way through the crowd and have a brief chat with MEP Peterle, one of the panel speakers. He willingly accepted to answer a few of my questions on his work as an MEP and on health promotion and prevention, which seem to be issues close to his heart…
How easy or difficult is it for ENVI MEPs to engage with MEPs from other Committees and push health forward onto the European Parliament’s agenda?
I came up with the idea to have a cross-sectoral Committee Working Group on Health but so far, we were only able to establish a Working Group for Health within the ENVI framework. Thanks to the Working Group we try to stimulate our colleagues, the co-ordinators first of all, from other Committees to work with us. Health is a cross-sectoral and inter-sectoral issue including many aspects and I am sure that this time, if we work within a broader perspective, we will getmore support and understanding from our colleagues. Sometimes, it is difficult to convince a colleague but I would say that there is a growing understanding that health is not just a sectoral issue as well as growing willingness to work together.
In your EHFG Statement, you highlighted the importance of health prevention “as a true target policy”. How do you see this? Do you think that cutting down on prevention when implementing austerity measures can pose a problem?
I think that almost all health systems are in trouble and health promotion and disease prevention are really and truly the way forward. I always say that we may not make linear reductions. There are areas where we are simply not allowed to make cuts for example when people with disability, palliative care and cancer screening programmes are involved.
The fight against cancer must be at the core issue of health policies and we have to be very careful what we do with austerity measures so that they do not take their toll on people’s health.
What are the key health issues that you would like to see more of in the European Parliament and the upcoming years?
There are issues we have to discuss in the Committee. There are issues we will discuss in the Intergroup for Health and there are targeted issues which we will discuss in the Working Group for Health. I think that prevention will most certainly be one of the key issues alongside antibiotic resistance, non-communicable diseases such as cancer, food safety and GMOs. There are also a wide range of issues like pesticides which are not explicitly health issues.
MEP Alojz Peterle has been a Member of the European Parliament since 2004. He has served as a member of various European Parliament Committees including the ENVI Committee and is also the President of MEPs Against Cancer Group (MAC) as well as the co-chair of the European Parliament Working Group on Health.
This interview was conducted by Ann Marie Borg (Young Forum Gastein 2014 scholar)