Public Health

Subsidiarity monitoring in the area of public health


Legal basis

Article 168 TFEU
Click here to see the consolidated version of the Treaty of Lisbon.

Under the Treaty of Lisbon, public health is a policy area where the Union supports, complements or supplements the actions of the Member States (Article 6 TFEU). However, common safety concerns in public health matters are an area where competence is shared between the Union and the Member States (Article 4 TFEU). The dual nature of the competences in the area of public health is reflected in the different types of measures that the EU can take under article 168 TFEU:
  • On the one hand the EU may adopt harmonisation measures setting high standards of quality and safety for organs, substances of human origins and medicinal products and devices, and also adopt protective measures in the sanitary and phytosanitary fields [art. 168 (4) TFEU];
  • On the other hand, the EU may also adopt incentive measures in other matters pertaining to the protection and improvement of human health, i.e. for combating major cross-border health scourges, monitoring, early warning of and combating serious threats to health as well as measures which have as their direct objective the protection of public health regarding tobacco and the abuse of alcohol. The harmonisation of national laws and regulations is excluded in these fields. [art. 168 (5) TFEU];
  • Finally, the EU can encourage and support cooperation between the Member States in the area of public health through the open method of coordination [art. 168 (2) TFEU].
EU action in public health shall be directed towards preventing physical and mental illnesses and dangers to health and shall include the fight against major health scourges. It shall promote research into their causes and their transmission. Union competences also extend to drugs related health damage. The Lisbon Treaty reiterates that a high level of human health protection shall be ensured in the definition and implementation of all EU policies.
EU legislation in this field is enacted by the Council and the European Parliament in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure (Article 294 TFEU). The Council may additionally adopt recommendations on a Commission proposal on the basis of a qualified majority.
Finally, the Treaty acknowledges that the Member States remain responsible for the definition of their health policy and the organisation and delivery of health services and medical care, including the management of health services and medical care and the allocation of resources assigned to them.

Further information on the CoR's work in this area

Under the new mandate of the Committee of Regions for 2010-2015, public health now falls within the remit of the Commission for Natural Resources (NAT). Click here for comprehensive information about this commission, its work programme and activities.