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The European Commissioner designate for Health and Consumer Policy, the Maltese John Dalli faced a public hearing on Thursday 14th January by the European Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee (ENVI) in association with the EP Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee. The EP Agriculture and Rural Development Committee were also represented. MEP’s focused their questioning on patient rights, the pharmaceutical package, legislation on food derived from cloned animals, genetically modified organisms, the proposal on food information for consumers, protection of children and the question of collective redress.

Mr Dalli stressed during his intervention that if finally elected, he will be working to empower patients and consumers and ensure that they are better informed on their decisions. He also expressed concern about the sustainability of the health sector and on health inequalities across the European Union. He referred to the European Union’s limitations on health and stressed that it is up to Member States to develop and implement health policies but he ensured that where EU can play a role to improve people’s lives, he will be working on that.

Asked about the ongoing Cross-Border directive that failed to reach a political agreement among Member States last December and at present has been suggested to be withdrawn, he replied by saying that he expects to be working with the current EU Presidency to try to move forward this initiative and reach a political agreement during his mandate. Concerning the pharma package, Mr Dalli stated that he aims at a more patient orientated approach that “brings more patient perspective” into the current proposals. He intends to work on moving forward with the two non controversial points of the current proposed legislation on pharmaceuticals and, is willing to leave the discussion on patient information to another time.

Simultaneously he reassured the stakeholders that the medical industry should remain competitive and this will also be in his mind during the mandate. In essence, Mr Dalli convened the message “Consumers first, Patients first” showing plenty of motivation and initiative to begin office. Parliamentary hearings will continue until the end of next week and the European Parliament will carry out its vote on 26 January. If the Commissioners are appointed with no further delays, the European Commission should be able to start the new mandate during the first week of February.