Debate around Juncker’s "dream team"
02.10.2014 - New EU commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker is on the defensive after members of Parliament and NGOs criticised his reorganisation of the health technology units.
According to Juncker’s plan, the units in charge of medical devices and health technology will no longer belong to the health directorate DG Sanco, but rather to internal market directorate DG Enterprise and Industry. In addition, the European Medicines Agency, a London-based EU agency responsible for market authorisation of pharmaceutical products will now respond to both DG Sanco and DG Enterprise Industry, a controversial move that caused an outcry in the European Parliament last month.
Juncker defended this decision and reassured his critics that “as president of the commission, I will make sure that public health will be at least as important in our policies as internal market considerations.” He explained: “Health technology products, cosmetics and medicinal products will be part of this new portfolio which is being entrusted to [Poland’s] Ms Elzbieta Bienkowska.” According to Juncker, he had to struggle for Bienkowska’s appointment and may have had to bolster her portfolio to arrange it – in direct response to the European Parliament’s request for more female commissioners.
Starting on 29 September, Juncker’s newly proposed Commissioners have been presenting themselves and their proposals to Parliament. Vytenis Andriukaitis, the former Lithuanian health minister, will oversee public health and food safety issues. Members of the European Parliament have expressed concern that the EU could relax its rules on the use of antibiotics or hormones in livestock and of chlorine baths for poultry in light of EU-US trade talks. During the hearing Andriukaitis said, “As a doctor, I will say no to any attempt to lower EU standards. One cannot compromise on that. These standards shall not be sacrificed for free trade. The high EU standards have also facilitated our global exports.”
EU lawmakers have also questioned the nominee for Health and Food Safety on his stance on GM crops. GM crops are extensively grown in the Americas and Asia but face strong opposition in many EU states, including Germany and France. “Cultivation of GMOs is a huge problem from a philosophical point of view. If we want to interfere with biodiversity, we have to be very vigilant and cautious.” Andriukaitis explained.
The hearings will run until 7 October. On 22 October, Parliament will vote on whether to accept or reject Juncker’s proposed team. If accepted, the Commissioners will begin their work on 1 November.