Committee of the absurd: EU Parliament scrutinizes non-existent pharma rules

Committee of the absurd: EU Parliament scrutinizes non-existent pharma rules
Опубликовано: Friday, 31 March 2023 12:36

Hearing with commissioner turned into a tragicomedy.

It’s not Godot that MEPs in the European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) are waiting for, but it might as well be.

Like the perennially absent character in the Samuel Beckett play, the revision to the general pharmaceutical legislation seems never to come. On Thursday, lawmakers in the committee met with Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides for a session dedicated to the proposal, which should have been published Wednesday, but wasn’t.

"I won’t comment on leaks," said the commissioner, at one point in the proceedings. But with only the leaked draft for guidance, it’s not clear what else there was to discuss.

Instead, they talked in circles about everything and nothing.

There were a few moments of respite. A comment made by MEP Peter Liese about how he "personally [doesn’t] have a problem" with waiting, drew titters from the room. Liese, health spokesperson for the European People’s Party group, is suspected as being partly responsible for the delay after sending a letter to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to ask her to review the proposal to give more concessions to pharmaceutical industry interests.

Czech MEP Kateřina Konečná of the Left group was less forgiving.

"What we hear now is completely outrageous. It’s a shambles. I don’t think I’m speaking just for myself when I say that part of this committee has lost the remnants of patience and trust in you, your team, and the incompetent [DG SANTE director general Sandra] Gallina," said the far-left MEP.

But for the most part, the health commissioner stuck to generalities in her answers to the irate MEPs.

"This is a reform about the 3As: accessibility, affordability, availability," said Kyriakides. Occasionally she went into more detail, commenting that if the Commission did introduce transferable exclusivity voucher incentives for antibiotic drugs, it will be only "under extremely strict conditions."

Adding to the sense of absurdity was an assistant from the Socialists and Democrats group guarding the room — tasked with blocking any MEPs from the center-left political group from entering. Earlier in the week, the S&D’s health spokesman, MEP Tiemo Wölken, said that the group was boycotting the meeting in protest at the delay.

At a certain point in "Waiting for Godot", one of the main characters says: "Let us not waste our time in idle discourse." The members of the ENVI committee might have been better off taking that advice Thursday.

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