Parliament agreed to align the functioning of the EU Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) with the future regulation on cross-border health threats.

In a recent plenary debate, MEPs raised concerns over Parliament’s scrutiny role in the creation and functioning of HERA. In this context, Parliament’s environment committee decided to update its negotiation mandate on the “serious cross-border threats to health” file by tabling a series of additional targeted amendments in order to ensure coherence between this legislative piece and HERA. The amended text was adopted with 479 votes in favour, 71 against and 15 abstentions.                                                                Parliament’s updated mandate calls for:                                                                Transparency for all public investments in research, development, manufacturing, production, procurement, stockpiling, supply and distribution of medical countermeasures. In case of joint procurement, MEPs want the Commission to make publicly available in a timely manner the contracts and agreements established with economic operators; Close cooperation between the Health Security Committee and the HERA Board, the Health Crisis Board and other relevant Union agencies and bodies, in order to avoid duplication of efforts and to have coherence in decision-making at EU level. Moreover, a representative of the European Parliament should be an active member of the Health Crisis Board; An in-depth review of HERA operations, to be carried out by 2023 and every 2 years thereafter by the Commission, including its structure, governance, funding and human resources, as well as the possibility of upgrading HERA to a standalone agency. Parliament requests that any reviews should be accompanied, where appropriate, by a legislative proposal, in full respect of the role of the European Parliament as co-legislator.

Following the update of the EP mandate, interinstitutional negotiations will now resume with a view to reach an agreement as soon as possible.

During the September plenary, MEPs already adopted their position on the legislative proposal to strengthen the EU’s crisis prevention, preparedness and response when addressing future serious cross-border health threats. In the meantime, the Commission set up HERA as an internal structure, expected to be fully operational in early 2022. An accompanying Council regulation adds a framework of measures related to medical countermeasures in the event of a public health emergency.