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Home Eurosurveillance Weekly Release  2003: Volume 7/ Issue 49 Article 1
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Eurosurveillance, Volume 7, Issue 49, 04 December 2003

Citation style for this article: Von Holstein I. Progress on the establishment of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Euro Surveill. 2003;7(49):pii=2337. Available online:

Progress on the establishment of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control

Isabella von Holstein (, Health Protection Agency Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre, London, England

Health ministers announced this week that they had made real progress towards the establishment of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (1). In a meeting of the Council for Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs in Brussels on 1 and 2 December 2003, they held an extensive policy debate on the proposal for the establishment of the Centre, and reached a general agreement on the main content of the proposal.

Health ministers agreed that the mission and tasks of the Centre would be limited to communicable diseases and health threats of unknown origin (2). Any possible extension of this mission will be assessed at a later review of the work of the Centre. Some changes were brought to the text with a view to ensure that the Centre would not be entitled to regulatory powers. Other issues discussed included voting rules and the composition of the management board of the Centre.

The Commission's original proposal for the regulation establishing the Centre was published in September 2003 (3). The Centre is intended to mobilise and significantly reinforce the synergies between the existing national centres for disease control. The Centre will provide EU policy makers and citizens with authoritative and independent scientific advice on serious health threats, and recommend control measures and coordinate intervention teams allowing a rapid and effective EU-wide response (4).

The proposal for the establishment of the Centre has already been before the Economic and Social Committee of European Parliament. The opinion of the rapporteur was adopted on 29 October 2003 (5). The Committee took note of recent global events, notably the SARS epidemic and the threats of bioterrorism in the United States and Japan, and concluded that the EU needed a systematic and structured approach to controlling communicable diseases and other serious health threats, which would require a substantial increase in long term funding.

The Committee considered that the remit of the Centre should include surveillance, and the networking of existing laboratories, to achieve rapid harmonisation of surveillance methods and the provision of high level scientific advice. The Committee also stated that in some instances, technical assistance should not be limited only to EU Member States and that the EU should be able to obtain help from and/or provide help to other Community agencies, the World Health Organization, humanitarian medicine and foreign agencies. The Centre is intended to be small in size yet highly influential, because of its synergies with national institutes. Interestingly, the Committee had some doubts as to whether the Centre would be able to begin operating with such a small number of staff (30 in the first year, rising to 70 in the third).

The regulation will also be scrutinised by the European Parliament's Health and Social Affairs Committee.

The Italian presidency urged the Council to adopt the proposal at the first reading during the first semester of 2004. This would allow the Centre to become operational from early 2005.

  1. European Commission. Health and Consumer Affairs: Results of the Council meeting, Brussels, 1-2 December 2003. Press release MEMO/03/249, 3 December 2003. (|0|RAPID&lg=EN) [accessed 4 December 2003]
  2. Council of the European Union. 2549th Council meeting - EMPLOYMENT, SOCIAL POLICY, HEALTH AND CONSUMER AFFAIRS - Brussels, 1 and 2 December 2003. Provision version, 15443/03 (Presse 354). Council of the European Union; December 2003. ( [accessed 4 December 2003]
  3. European Commission. Proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council Establishing a European Centre [for Disease Prevention and Control] (presented by the Commission). 2003/0174 (COD). Brussels: European Commission; 16 September 2003 (replaces version of 8 August 2003). (available in English at, and in multiple languages at the 'Legislation in preparation' page of the Official Journal of the European Union at [accessed 18 September 2003]
  4. Eurosurveillance. Commission publishes proposal for establishing a European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Eurosurveillance Weekly 2003; 7(38): 18/09/2003. (
  5. European Economic and Social Committee. Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on the Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. COM(2003) 441 final - 2003/0174 (COD). Brussels: European Economic and Social Committee; 29 October 2003. (available at, or search through Pre-Lex at [accessed 4 December 2003]

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