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Hungarian Council presidency to prioritise cardiovascular disease, pharma reform

Hungary presented its priorities for the Presidency of the Council.
Hungary presented its priorities for the Presidency of the Council. Copyright Denes Erdos/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright Denes Erdos/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Marta Iraola Iribarren
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Hungary highlighted demographic challenges and health issues it considers 'neglected' in its priorities for the EU Council presidency.


Hungary will aim for EU level agreements on countering cardiovascular disease and organ donation as well as progressing new pharmaceutical legislation, according to the programme setting out priorities for its presidency of the EU Council. 

The document published this week in advance of Hungary's six-month stint at the helm of the Council - it replaces Belgium on 1 July - also cited rare diseases, links between mental health and various emergencies and cooperation on affordability of medicines as areas of focus. 

On medicine affordability, Hungary aims to settle negotiations on some of the more complex issues including drug shortages, incentives and marketing authorisation processes, an EU diplomat told a conference in Brussels on Wednesday (19 June).  

The diplomat also mentioned the EU action on tobacco and alcohol consumption which has seen some of its main initiatives delayed in the last months and added that Hungary is awaiting the update of the 2009 Council recommendation on smoke-free environments.  

The European Commission first envisioned issuing a recommendation to the Council in January 2024 before being delayed without a date being set for its presentation. 

The work program also addressed labour shortages as the “greatest employment challenge in the European Union” affecting all sectors and regions. While shortages of workers are being seen in almost all sectors, healthcare systems are especially affected across the EU.  

“Improving employment conditions and the working environment and improving the quality of employment will be a priority for the Presidency,” according to the programme. It also cites connections between labour and demographic changes affecting the EU, which has an ageing population testing the sustainability of the healthcare systems.  

Data from Eurostat shows that the median age in the EU will increase by four and a half years before 2050, to reach 48.2 years. It is also projected that by 2050 there will be close to half a million centenarians in the bloc.   

The Hungarian Presidency aims to address workforce shortages by involving available labour market reserves and promoting a higher employment rate among the inactive working-age population.   

Working on the underlying causes for the scarcity of workers, the programme states the need to promote work-life balance and cross-sectoral gender equality.  

While health is not an EU competence, the COVID-19 pandemic saw closer cooperation and planning across the bloc.

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