Beating cancer among top EU Presidency objectives as Parliament pushes for increased assistance to families

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Europe comprises only one eighth of the total world population but has around one quarter of the global total of cancer cases with some 3.7 million new patients per year. In this context, Slovenia has placed the battle against cancer at the top of the list when it comes to its health priorities, committing itself to special attention to the role of the EU in global health and the European Cancer Plan, which is one of the three pillars of the new European Health Union.

The European Parliament has also been pushing the Commission and Member States for stronger actions in the fight against cancer. Earlier this year, the European Commission presented Europe’s Beating Cancer plan, slightly delayed on account of the pandemic. The plan is a key European Union public health initiative and a cornerstone of the European health union process launched in November 2020.

Responsibility for health lies primarily with the governments of the individual EU Member States. Europe’s Beating Cancer plan sets out actions to support, coordinate or supplement Member States’ efforts at every stage of the disease: from prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment, to an improved quality of life for cancer patients and survivors. Cross-cutting themes include research and innovation, digital and personalised medicine, and action to reduce cancer inequalities across the EU. A particular focus will be on childhood cancers.

The plan consists of 10 flagship initiatives and 32 supporting actions, to be rolled out over the coming years. Implementation will be monitored by means of a roadmap and progress indicators, and the Commission will establish an EU cancer plan implementation group. With a €4 billion budget, the plan will make use of all available funding instruments, including the new EU4Health programme, Horizon Europe, and the Digital Europe programme. EU institutional actors and public and private stakeholders have widely commented on Europe’s Beating Cancer plan. While non-governmental organisations and industry associations broadly welcome the plan and its ambition, some have criticised specific elements.

The European Parliament’s Special Committee on Cancer is working on an own-initiative report that will be Parliament’s contribution to Europe’s Beating Cancer plan. Health and Food Safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides has stressed that Parliament and its special committee has played an important role in shaping the plan, and will also be instrumental during its implementation.

According to Loucas Fourlas, a Greek MEP from the European Popular Party, said that more needs to be done to achieve equality even in this sensitive field. “If we want to start ending cancer inequalities across Europe, we must promote financial security for families caring for children & adolescents with cancer, along with access to the best treatments available”.

Over the last few years, fighting cancer has been high on the Parliament’s agenda, culminating in setting up of a Special Committee on Beating Cancer. There are four main areas the Cancer Committee’s work is based on: prevention, early diagnosis, treatment and care.

Those areas represent the strategic approach the EU has taken in order to beat cancer.