EU Commissioners Corina Creţu and Vytenis Andriukaitis met with health workers at a roundtable in Brussels and agreed to start a debate on future EU health investments under the bloc’s cohesion policy for 2021-2027.

The pilot programme is aimed at improving cross-border emergency services in the Pyrenees Mountains, a border region between France, Spain, and Andorra. The Commissioners also requested the nations of the EU needed to seek ways to establish hospitals at or near borders which to serve the populations of more than one country.

According to the Commission, doctors in border regions are unable to take care of patients in need of urgent medical care on the opposite side of the border, therefore to overcome this situation, the project aims to ensure reciprocal prior recognition on either side of a national boundary.

The second phase of the pilot project has already been launched and will seek to secure bilateral agreements between medical associations in the border regions of Spain and France. As a result, 15 million inhabitants of the Pyrenees will benefit from improved emergency services. The project is supported by the European Regional Development Fund and will be completed in mid-2019.

The Commission wants to address the governance of cross-border issues in its legislative proposal for the cohesion policy in 2021-2027, with 15% of each cross-border cooperation programme included.

“According to the latest Eurobarometer survey, almost 70% of Europeans want the EU to do more in the field of health. Thanks to the funds under the cohesion policy, we can take actions that bring noticeable changes where they are needed, which shows that we listen to the needs of our citizens,” said Andriukaitis, who appeared pleased by the new health category. “This is another confirmation that we must, and can, implement the principle of ‘health in all policies’ which were set out in the Treaty”.

The health system, according to the Commission, is evolving towards more education, health promotion, and disease prevention, while also shifting from hospital and institutional care to local community care and the integration of health and social care.

With new policy objectives that enable integrated investments in health, social inclusion, and education, the Commission’s proposal for the Cohesion Policy for the period 2021-2027 provides for the conditions to support the changes.

The Commission says that healthcare developments require different infrastructure investments, be it primary and community care facilities or prevention programs which include the integrated care and training of the workforce and support for these strategies. The cohesion policy funds can also be combined with other EU instruments, such as InvestEU, or national programmes.