02 October 2014
EU, Europe
- Air Quality, - Healthcare

Fundamental changes in the new European Commissioners College

Juncker, the incoming president of the European Commission, presents the list of the European Commissioners and their jobs for the next five years, during a news conference at the EC headquarters in Brussels

In September the new European Commissioners’ team was designated by the new President of the Commission, the Luxembourgish Jean Claude Junker. Before the new Commissioners’ College start sworking from 1st of November, the designated candidates will go through the European Parliament’s hearings and approval procedure. The new Commission present essential changes of interest for EFA’s activities: Picture: European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker

  1. Seven vice-presidents –this new role will serve tocoordinate the work of several  Commissioners, a sort of team leaders with teams that will change depending on the subject;
  2. First vice-president – conceived to be President’s right-hand, the first vice-president will be responsible for a better regulation agenda (e.g. before the Commission proposes new legislation, his/her role will be to  analyse if such legislation is really needed);
  3. New consumers portfolio – consumer policy will no longer be scattered across different portfolios but will have a prominent place in the portfolio of the Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality (designated Commissioner: Věra Jourová, Czech Republic, Mission letter);
  4. Single environment and maritime affairs and fisheries Directorate–these two areas will be combined (designated Commissioner: Karmenu Vella, Malta, Mission letter);
  5. Single energy and Climate action Directorate–although these two portfolios were separated in the past, they will be under the responsibility of a single Commissioner, with oversight from a vice-president (designated Commissioner: Miguel Agnes Cañete, Spain, Mission letter).

Vytenis Andriukaitis, Member designate of the EC in charge of Health and Food Safety

 The designated Health and Food Safety Commissioner is Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis – former Lithuania Health Minister, Mission letter. The Health and Food Safety Commissioner is expected to contribute to projects steered and coordinated by the Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness (designated Commissioner: Jyrki Katainen, Finland, Mission letter). However, the European public health community met such developments with astonishment and concern, as the competence for medicinal products and health technologies from the Direction-General in charge of Health is planned to be moved to the Direction-General in charge of Internal market and industry. The European public health community, including EFA, has asked the President of the Commission to reconsider this decision, as we believe that medicinal products and health technology domains belong under the responsibility of the Commissioner for health.  

 Concerns on climate change and air pollution rise globally

On the 27-29 August, the first ever global conference on health and climate took place at World Health Organisation’s (WHO) headquarters in Geneva. The conference aimed to inform on the negative effects of climate change on human health, as it is already causing tens of thousands of deaths every year due to shifting patterns of disease, extreme weather events, degradation of water supplies, sanitation, and severe impact on agriculture and food production. Only in 2012 climate change, closely coupled with air pollution, was responsible for 7 million deaths worldwide (1 in 8 person on Earth die from polluted air!). It is estimated that direct damage to human health from climate change will cost the world US$ 2-4 billion a year by 2030. Based on these overwhelming facts, WHO called on countries to adopt for stronger preventive actions. For example, changes in energy and transport policies could save millions of lives annually from diseases caused by high levels of air pollution. The conference will be followed by the careful consideration of health and climate issues during the upcoming UN Climate Summit in September 2014, and then ultimate global climate agreement should be reached during the UN meeting in Paris 2015. What about Europe? According to the most recent Eurobarometer survey, 95% Europeans consider environment protection as a personally important matter, while the majority of respondents consider air pollution as the most concerning issue. Although hazardous effects of air pollution to our health become more and more familiar and known within the society, acknowledgement is not enough to diminish their effects. The European Parliament has the power to change and limit our exposure to air pollution. To call for action the key EU policy makers, a group of European environmental NGOs has just launched a campaign showing air pollution levels at the heart of the European Union – Brussels EU quarter. To know what air European policy makers breathe, check the video.

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The EFA Team