Note about the EU Parliamentary Seminar,
Brussels, 6 November:
Should there be an EU Centre for communicable
Julius Weinberg, Specialist Adviser and Rebecca
Neal, Clerk attended this seminar. This note outlines the main
points covered. There were a number of speakers from various Infectious
Disease surveillance centres in EU states and also representatives
from the CDC in Atlanta, the WHO in Geneva and the lead civil
servant from the EU Commission.
1. There was agreement that EU collaboration
was necessary because infectious diseases do not respect borders.
2. There have been attempts to collaborate
over the last ten years or so: a Community Network on Communicable
Disease Surveillance and Control was set up in 1996. This was
not viewed as extremely successful because of a lack of expert
co-ordination, and because there was no readily identifiable contact
point for rapid response to outbreaks.
3. Participants expressed different views
about what an EU centre should do. Some spoke about building up
a virtual centre, and others appeared to envisage a large centre
similar to the CDC in Atlanta.
4. However, many participants agreed that
there should be a small centre based in one of the EU countries.
This would provide an obvious contact point when faced with potential
5. The relevant civil servant from the Commission
proposed "a small but strong centre" that would draw
on and co-ordinate expertise in nation states.
6. Data on infectious disease from different
European countries are not necessarily compatible preventing meaningful
comparison and effective surveillance.
7. It was suggested that there were not
enough experts in Europe to man a large CDC-type centre as well
as nation-based surveillance centres.
8. The success of an EU centre would depend
in part on integrating national surveillance effectively. Yet
much is reproduced at present, with a large number of surveillance
centres specialising in infections such as Ebola (at least five
in the EU, whereas in the US, for example, there are only two
9. It would be very important for any European-wide
surveillance centre to work with the World Health Organisation,
which is a leader in global surveillance and already has research
and surveillance centres in Europe.