The European Health Card_ by fionan

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									The European Health Card, one year on

Brussels, 28 June 2005

Speech by Mr Vladimir Špidla
Member of the European Commission responsible for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Europe I believe in is a Europe that makes every one of its Member States stronger. One that forges true solidarity between them by involving the people

individually and not only governments. A Europe that works for the well-being of its citizens, far removed from the national self-interest that has torn it apart in the past.

Such a Europe is taking shape, pushed forward by some substantial and ambitious projects.

Projects which allow everyone to dream, to live better and to carry a “piece of Europe” with them.

We need to invest our energies in such projects to show Europeans that Europe is truly where our future lies.

That is why I am very pleased to be here today to open this conference on the European health card, and I would like thank the Region of Veneto most warmly for

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organising it, with the support of the Commission, EHTEL and HOPE, to whom I also extend my greetings as active players in European health care provision.

The European health card is already a great success, and congratulations and thanks are due to everybody involved.

Over forty million cards were distributed in the six months after its launch on the first of June 2004.

In all fourteen countries that adopted the card from the beginning, the number of cards issued way exceeds that of the old "E111" forms.

This suggests that the public are becoming increasingly well-informed about their right to health care when travelling abroad.

Italy is currently in the process of issuing the card to its entire population.

The Czech Republic has made the European Card its own national health insurance card and issued it to all insured persons as from 1 June 2004.

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Outside the Union, Norway adopted the European Card from the start, and at this point I would like to take the opportunity to extend my greetings to our friends from the European Economic Area as well.

I know that there has always been a lot of support and cooperation from all the Member States in preparing and deploying the card. That positive attitude is now helping to overcome the practical problems, thankfully few, that occasionally crop up, and to ensure that all health professionals, be they doctors, chemists or hospitals, are better informed.

So the European Card shows that great things can be achieved for European citizens if the political will is there and the Commission acts in its proper role as expert and guardian of the general interest.

The European Card is naturally a step-by-step process, which has to be realistic in accommodating the existing differences between countries in the use of national cards and the cost of deploying a new one.

The transitional periods currently applying to eleven Member States will end by the end of this year at the

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latest. Next year every single European man, woman and child will have their own card valid throughout the Union and EFTA countries, whether on holiday, travelling on business or studying abroad.

This will have particular symbolic resonance in 2006, coinciding as it does with European Year of Mobility.

I hope that by the end of this “Year of Mobility” we will, together, be well on the way to introducing an electronic European card.

Because this is the real purpose behind the project, which everybody involved in its development has recognised since the Barcelona European Council decided in 2002 to create a European Health Insurance Card.

We therefore have to consider what the functions are that will give the European Card its added value.

Because an electronic card is not just a piece of plastic with a chip. It is, above all, a set of secure databases, communications infrastructures and protocols that can protect personal data and prevent fraud.

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Gradually turning this card into a real European mobility card strikes me as a very promising idea.

All kinds of functions could be considered.

For example, it could include the data needed to maintain social security rights, not just sickness insurance, as is the case with the current card, but other benefits as well.

It could also include emergency medical data in case of sickness or accident while abroad.

And, it could contain all the data needed for occupational mobility, for example for job seeking and registering with employment services in other countries.

It is a massive work in progress involving broad consultation with EURES and its national partners as well as with health professionals, with the end prospect of a card which would cover all the major services needed for worker mobility.

An electronic card project on this scale, covering half a billion people, is also a major opportunity to develop data

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security technologies and interoperability of services, in particular the public services.

These are the priorities identified in the Commission’s newly adopted “i2010” action plan, and an electronic card would help to confirm Europe’s role as a leading force.

I hope that in the eighteen months between now and the end of the European Year of Mobility we will be able to take some decisive steps forward together. Consultation with the key stakeholders will put the Commission in a position to make the necessary proposals.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I believe that, at this difficult time for the European Union, we must demonstrate to our fellow citizens that we can better answer their concerns by acting together.

The European health card is a project designed for a citizens’ Europe, a Europe with its eyes firmly fixed on the future. It is up to us to ensure that the enthusiasm that fuelled its launch does not wane.

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