Environment and health
Environmental problems such as air pollution do not follow national boundaries. Partly due to global developments, the EU has been able to develop a substantial acquis, in which the Member States seek common solutions to tackle transboundary environmental problems such as air pollution, water pollution and biodiversity loss. A textbook example in this context is the European emissions trading scheme, relating to the largest carbon market in the world and aiming at achieving a better regulation of the greenhouse gas emissions in a cost-efficient way. Moreover, such a European approach ensures fair competition between the Member States which often apply different rules.
Objectives for Belgium
In the discussions on the European environmental policy, our country has always been keen to play a proactive and constructive role. The aim is to reconcile a high level of environmental protection with the principles of fair competition and the possible impact on the social fabric, in accordance with the three pillars of sustainable development. The essential elements in this connection are a far-reaching harmonisation and a systematic application of the Community method. Besides, our country attaches great importance to the principle of precaution and to the ‘polluter pays’ principle.
Ambitious objectives concerning the air quality have had several positive implications with regard to improving public health. However, our extensive transport network and our dense industrial fabric make it difficult for Belgium to achieve the very ambitious EU air quality objectives.
Since the Belgian Presidency of 2010, the prudent and effective use of natural resources and raw materials has been high on the European agenda. Since then, concepts like sustainable material management, resource efficiency and circular economy have been introduced in the policy of the Member States. Both at the European and at the global level, Belgium underlines the need for more sustainable production and consumption patterns. At the end of June 2016, the EU Member States validated a comprehensive action plan on circular economy. Our country hopes for an effective and efficient implementation of the actions and measures included in the action plan.
The Seventh Environmental Action Programme is the most recent fully developed European policy framework with regard to the environment for the period 2012-2020. This programme is the guideline for the environmental policy in the EU. Through this programme, the European Commission wants to achieve an efficient and sustainable economy protecting and reinforcing nature and safeguarding the health and well-being of the citizens. For our country it is crucial that this programme and the objectives it contains are carried out as loyally and correctly as possible.
Finally, for several years now the greening of the European semester process has been a horizontal focus for our country. In this respect the European Semester should be an instrument allowing synergies between the environment, on the one hand, and policy areas such as industry, research, development and innovation, on the other hand.
The Member States of the EU mainly organize their own healthcare for their citizens. The EU complements the national policies by defining common objectives. Moreover, a European approach implies economies of scale through the pooling of resources. The EU contributes to addressing common challenges such as epidemics, chronic diseases or the ageing of the population.
The EU health policy translates into a health strategy committed to prevention by promoting a healthier lifestyle, equal access to healthcare for all (regardless of income, gender, race, etc.), interventions with regard to serious international health threats, etc.
Objectives for Belgium
Our country broadly supports the above focal points of the European policy.
Although various competences in the field of healthcare have been delegated to the regions/communities – e.g. preventive healthcare and health education – the main orientations of the BE policy are situated at the federal level. The same applies to the coordination situated at the European level.
At the European level our country actively supports a sustainable, accessible, high quality healthcare. In this respect, BE is reflecting on the application of technological tools in the context of healthcare.
More thematical priorities of the Belgian policy relate to the consequences of an ageing population, the problems of dementia and the prevention of the use of harmful health determinants, more specifically alcohol and tobacco. The fact that a modernised regulatory framework for tobacco products has been developed on the European level, is partly due to the efforts undertaken by Belgium.