Smoking kills 650,000 people in Europe each year
There will be one million vacancies in the health sector across Europe by 2015 and the European Commission is seeing how to solve this problem without being unethical, by taking human resources from poorer countries, European Commission John Dalli said this morning.
Speaking during a meeting with the Meusac Core Group, Mr Dalli said this was one of the ways the European Commission was seeking to address health issues. Health remained central to a person's quality of life and also had an economic value.
EU countries, he said, should continue to invest and focus their efforts on wellness rather than concentrate on providing the best possible care. This was a way to ensure sustainability of the sector, which was facing difficulties because of the aging population.
The new European health strategy was based on prevention, accessibility, health security and sustainability.
"We are trying to convince people to change their lifestyles without imposing. We cannot tell people what to eat but inform them about what they are eating. The strategy is focusing on tackling obesity and smoking," Mr Dalli said, describing the fight against smoking as a massive hurdle.
He said that 650,000 people died in Europe each year due to smoking.
Mr Dalli questioned whether there was real freedom of choice in smoking since smoking was an addiction.
In its revision of the Tobacco Directive, the EU wanted to reduce the attractiveness of cigarette packaging and remove flavourings in cigarettes. It also wanted to reduce the size of advertising displays and possibly ban vending machines, which had to be age identifiable.
The Commissioner praised Malta for introducing measures such as no smoking in public places, a measure that was now also being extended to playing fields.
On the cross border health care directive, currently being transposed in EU laws, he said this was giving EU citizens the right to find redress in cures in another country, in cases of undue delays, such as waiting lists.
Such a measure is aimed at incentivising countries to invest more in reducing waiting lists.
There were also efforts underway to introduce a black list for doctors and nurses caught abusing in EU countries following a recent case of a doctor who was stopped in Germany and found operating in the Netherlands.
Mr Dalli said that rather than funding the health aspects of a certain projects, the new EU budget perspectives were enabling the health sector to benefit from structural funds.
On consumer rights, which were also part of Mr Dalli's portfolio, the Commissioner said the strategy was focusing on product safety, empowerment of consumers with information and rights and enforcement.
"We want consumers and businesses to be partners," he said.