Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission
Welcome Message 2016
It is impossible to talk about health issues in the past year in Europe without reflecting on the refugee crisis, and the challenges and opportunities that it has presented for Europe. Over one million children, women and men arrived at our shores and borders last year.
The European Union had a common responsibility to ensure that these persons, many of them physically and mentally exhausted, were offered care and support, including through the provision of healthcare when required. Their journeys were punishing, and we cannot imagine the impossible choice they had to make between staying in their countries in extreme danger and the unenviable alternative of risking their lives at the hands of people smugglers. Europe's number one task was to offer these people a humane reception in Europe, which the Commission helped to achieve by the setting up of hotspots in Greece and Italy, and through financial and practical assistance to our Member States under our emergency asylum funding and through the EU's Civil Protection Mechanism.
Our next priority is to ensure the effective integration of those that are granted international protection. For some that will mean receiving access to our health services. At the same time, the people who arrive in Europe must be given the opportunity to pay their way, through access to the labour market. And there is an obvious counterbalance to the demands they make of our healthcare system with the contributions that they can make to it. I hear of many medical professionals coming to Europe seeking to rebuild their lives; doctors and nurses, pharmacists and researchers, carers and therapists. In the next year I hope to hear heart-warming stories of their integration into our national health services, care homes, research institutes and universities and the valuable contribution they are making.
And one reason to welcome these new arrivals is the reason I gave you in my message for last year's World Health Summit – Europe's population is getting older, which makes it increasingly difficult to provide for our healthcare needs. I know that you will again address the healthcare challenges of an aging population at this year's Summit. Setting strategic research priorities will be of fundamental importance, and I am pleased that the European Commission continues to make an important contribution through our Horizon 2020 funding program.
Another area where we are making an important contribution is eHealth. More and more people are taking steps to monitor their own health and lifestyles through wearable devices and smartphones. These form an excellent contribution to prevent and monitor diseases. Through the Connecting Europe Facility, we are contributing to building Europe's digital health infrastructure. So far, 20 of our Member States have applied for funding to connect their systems and exchange health data and patient information or to offer e-prescriptions and reduce the administrative burden on our care systems.
Let me conclude by mentioning the healthcare industry, which is one of the major drivers of jobs, growth and innovation in Europe. We need a successful economy to sustain our European social model, and you are an intrinsic part of this with the many thousands of jobs you create and sustain. The world is getting older, and the world is in need of health technology to sustain us as we go through a major demographic change. Europe must lead the way in looking after its own citizens, and it must generate a competitive advantage in the global market for healthcare services and products.
I wish you a fruitful Summit, and another year of success.
President of the European Commission