Health Commissioner – commitments and new cabinet

The new Commission has recently started its work. It will now focus on fulfilling the commitments made at the Parliament hearings. It is also the case for Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner-designate for Health and Food Safety. In this short summary we remind the main commitments of Mrs. Kyriakides and we present her new cabinet.

Commitments made at the hearing

In the previous Policy Bites (issue 5), we listed the main points from the October Parliamentary hearing of the Commissioner-designate, Stella Kyriakides (available here). During the hearing, she made a number of commitments that refer to her portfolio, including: protecting and promoting public health; food safety and animal and plant health. We are expanding here on the main points referring to health area.

  • Supply of affordable medicines
    The new Commissioner stressed the importance of patients’ access to a steady supply of affordable medicines. She reminded us that pharmaceutical industry has a legal obligation to ensure this. She mentioned that a holistic pharmaceutical strategy might be needed to deliver to patients what they need. She spoke specifically about the need to ensure access to innovation and medicines for people with TB, HIV/AIDS and hepatitis- diseases that have an impact on a very large number of European citizens.


  • Medical devices
    Implementing modernised legislative framework is one of the commitments.


  • Health Data Space and e-Health

Digital technologies and artificial intelligence can bring concrete benefits to patients and healthcare professionals and Mrs. Kyriakides wants to maximise this potential. Creation of a European Health Data will be a step in this direction. Digitalisation is an important part of any health agenda and it is significant for citizens, it’s something that would promote research and innovation. She mentioned the European reference networks as a good example of improving access to information and care for patients with rare diseases.
Importance of data protection for patients was also stressed in the context of e-health.


  • Antimicrobial resistance

Mrs Kyriakides will advocate for an international agreement on the use and access to anti-microbials. She will prioritise implementation of a one-health action plan.


  • Vaccination

Despite the science behind importance of the use of vaccines there is still a lot of misinformation which impacts vaccine hesitancy. The new Commissioner mentioned that the Member States programmes for vaccinations lack uniformity, which also contributes to this issue.


  • Beating Cancer Plan

Mrs Kyriakides said that the plan needs to address prevention, diagnosis, treatment, research, survivorship and palliative care. It needs to involve sectors and industries outside of health sector, including education and environment. She stressed the importance of making difference in the life of cancer patients.


  • Organ donation

Possible action in this area (umbrella strategy for Europe on organ donation) depends on the outcomes of evaluation expected at the end of 2019.


  • Health technology assessment

The new Commissioner expressed her strong will to work towards a consensus around the Commission proposal of 2018 concerning health technology assessment. She stressed that she would work closely with patients but also with all other stakeholders, to find standard and a way to move forward, because voluntary way is not working.


  • Mental health

Mrs Kyriakides said that she would like to put mental health back on the agenda. She believes that it doesn’t receive the attention that it deserves and she sees importance of action to reverse this trend. She mentioned depression in adults but also behavioural problems with adolescents, especially an increase of self-destructive behaviour. Kyriakides announced that she would work with other Commissioners to bring in a mental health thread across many other policies and she intends to be a voice for this.


  • Human rights

Protection and promotion of human rights is very important for a new Commissioner. She gave as an example the area of psychiatry as an extremely sensitive. It is very easy to put a label in terms of a psychiatric diagnosis and depending on the culture this can be very subjective.


  • Research and innovation

One of the priorities as the Commission has already committed to investing in is research, with its Horizon 2020 programme. Research and innovation will affect many areas of life including medicines, industry, food, etc. The new Commissioner stressed her commitment to support investment in research and innovation.

Cabinet of EU Health Commissioner- list of members

Giorgos Rossides, head of cabinet: Rossides, a Cypriot, most recently served as a member of Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos’ cabinet. He also worked on the General Data Protection Regulation, the Presidency of the Council, and DG Health and Consumers.

Annukka Ojala, deputy head of cabinet: Ojala, of Finland, will lead efforts on the “Farm to Fork” strategy and antimicrobial resistance, as well as inter-institutional and international relations. Ojala worked as the head of the Strategy and Coordination Unit of DG SANTE.

Olympia Neocleous, cabinet expert: Neocleous will lead on medical devices, pharma legislation and cross-border health care. Neocleous previously served as the deputy permanent representative for her native Cyprus, covering health and other issues for EU ambassadors.

Panayiotis Pourgourides, special adviser: Pourgourides, a Cypriot, will lead work on nutrition, animal welfare and alcohol. He will also liaise with the Council of Europe, national parliaments and citizens’ dialogues. Pourgourides most recently served as chief international relations officer for the Cyprus House of Representatives’ International Relations Service.

Tove Ernst, member of Cabinet and communications adviser: Ernst, of Sweden, will communicate with the press, and lead work on Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, vaccination and antimicrobial resistance. She most recently served as the Commission spokesperson for migration, home affairs and citizenship, and the security union.

Roberto Reig Rodrigo, member of cabinet: Reig Rodrigo will work on pesticides, endocrine disruptors, food contact materials, food labeling, biotechnology and antimicrobial resistance in food. He has worked as a policy assistant to DG SANTE Directors-General Anne Bucher and Xavier Prats Monné. Reig Rodrigo is from Spain.

Ines Elise Prainsack-Ward, member of cabinet: Prainsack-Ward, of Austria, will be in charge of animal and plant health, animal feed, food fraud and official controls and imports. Prainsack-Ward has worked for the European People’s Party for 11 years, most recently as head of unit for policy and strategy.