On 1st January 2024, Belgium took over from Spain the Presidency of the Council of the EU. Over the next 6 months, Belgium will lead the European agenda and promote cooperation among the EU Member States, with the aim to strengthen the European Union and advance in several areas as climate change, economic growth and social cohesion. Several high-level summits and conferences will take place during that period, and important decisions taken on the future of the European Union.
Health will be key on the Belgium EU Presidency programme, who will make sure that it remains high in the EU policy agenda. The Presidency will emphasise the importance of strengthening the EU’s resilience to future health threats by reinforcing crisis management, supporting healthcare systems, and improving the security of medicines supply. The key priorities of Belgium EU Presidency in terms of health are divided into 3 clusters: 1/ Care – including health workforce challenges – the EU Presidency will invite the EU institutions to develop a comprehensive EU Health Workforce Strategy; 2/ Preparedness – including a) Preparedness governance à The Belgium EU Presidency is aiming to invite the EU stakeholders and the EU institutions to reflect on the implementation of the lessons learned from COVID-19; and b) Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) à The Belgium EU Presidency will continue the work of the Swedish and the Spanish EU presidencies; 3/ Protection – the issue of medicines shortage is being put on the EU agenda.
From the nurses’ perspective, the EFN will mainly be focussing on:
- Healthcare workforce – Europe’s health workforce crisis is not a “ticking time bomb” anymore. It has exploded!, with the nurses leaving massively the profession, and young generation not interested in the nursing profession anymore. It is therefore key that the EU Institutions and the national governments take adequate actions to protect the most vulnerable: to support the frontline health professionals that provide direct patient care, including recognising the added value of the nursing profession to the healthcare sector, to improve nurses’ salaries, working conditions, and ensure safe levels of staffing delivering good quality care and patient safety.
- Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) – Due to nurses’ close relation with citizens and patients and their unique role in infection prevention and control, and hygiene, nurses are, as part of a multi-disciplinary team, one of the most influential actors to combat AMR frontline. Therefore, AMR can only be tackled frontline by ‘fit for purpose’ health policies and national AMR Action Plans reflecting the nurses’ voice.
This is a key opportunity for the nurses to make sure their voice is heard and make change happen at EU level.