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19.03.2024 - Article

The Health team at the Permanent Representation of the Federal Republic of Germany to the EU is responsible for EU health policy, which is regulated in Article 168 TFEU. Paragraph 1 states:

A high level of human health protection shall be ensured in the definition and implementation of all Union policies and activities.

This goal of guaranteeing a high level of human health protection needs to be followed in all EU legislative proposals and policies and other political activities. This horizontal approach is known as “health in all policies”.

Additionally, the EU also has sector specific competences in the field of health. Representing the German position in this area is key for the German health team.

In general, EU competences are focused on the one side on coordinating and supporting national member states’ health policies – without harmonizing health policy in Europe (Art. 168, para 1-3 and 5-7 TFEU); on the other side the EU can harmonise quality and safety standards (Art. 168, para 4 TFEU) for:

  • Pharmaceuticals,
  • Medical devices,
  • Organs and substances of human origin, blood and blood derivatives

Areas of non-harmonized cooperation and support encompass in particular:

  • Measures to support the protection and improvement of human health;
  • Measures to monitor, identify and tackle severe and cross border health threats early on;
  • Measures to limit drug-related health damages;
  • Measures intended to directly protect the population from tobacco consumption and alcohol abuse.

According to Art. 168 (7) TFEU, the “Union action shall respect the responsibilities of the Member States for the definition of their health policy”. However, this must not contradict other principles laid out in primarily law but must be in line especially with the principles of freedom of movement and services (with a view to offering and using healthcare services).

The Covid-19 pandemic has evoked more coordination in health issues between member states at EU level. Some examples of this coordination are the successful procurement of Covid-19 vaccines, Covid-19 therapeutics and protective equipment, the creation of a legal framework for the digital Covid-19 certificate and its common implementation, as well as the perpetuation and strengthening of coordination within the Health Union Package.

Legislative proposals, as well as other documents like Council Conclusions or Recommendations, in the field of health are first discussed in the Council Working Groups on “Public Health”, as well as “Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices”. Then the documents are passed on to the Committee of the Permanent Representatives (COREPER 1) and finally decided by the EU Health Ministers at an Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (“EPSCO-Council”). In the European Parliament EU, health policies are debated in the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (“ENVI”). For the European Commission, the Directorate General for Health and Food Safety (“SANTE”) is in the lead regarding all health related topics.

Website of the German Ministry of Health

​​​​​​​Website of the Robert Koch Institute

Website of the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices

Website of the Paul Ehrlich Institut

Website of the Federal Centre for Health Education

Head of Health Unit : Sabine Kossebau


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