Monday 5 October 2009

Interview with Dr Antonyia Parvanova MEP

Dr Parvanova was appointed member of the European Parliament by the Bulgarian Parliament when Bulgaria first joined the EU; she then failed to be elected but the electorate probably realised their mistake and she did manage this time around. She have been assigned Vice-President of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) and is a Member of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) as well as the ALDE group coordinator for the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM).

Starting our discussion on the dossier on health inequalities she notices that it might be postponed a bit but it is a very important initiative. The outcome of this initiative will influence several if not all other healthcare related files in the EU. This area in combination with Rare Diseases is certainly the area where she will create the most discussion during the current mandate period. Dr Parvanova wants to ensure a common fund to cover for specific rare diseases in order to reduce the inequalities in the EU. It’s very hard not to agree that if Europe claims solidarity something needs to be done as it’s certainly not the case that all patients with rare diseases gets the appropriate treatment in all member states. No surprise given how expensive treatments of rare diseases can be. Even a wealthy country like Sweden has a burden sharing mechanism to ensure that all regions can afford expensive treatment to all patients in need. But I’m not sure I agree that a EU fund for treatments of rare diseases is the right way forward – for me the best would be to prioritize healthcare within the use of cohesion funds (funds to help poorer parts of Europe to catch up). That way those countries in need of support could get resources without any risk of the EU taking over the responsibility for financing of treatment of rare diseases in the long run. Unfortunatelly Dr Parvanova explains that this is not possible since these funds are for infrastructure investments and that therefore her idea needs to find a mechanism that allows for investment in individual patients for specific period. Well I look forward to see what she comes up with.

She points out that there are several other interesting issues on the agenda that she will get involved in such as Diagnostics, the role of tobacco as primary prevention for example cancer as well as organ donation.

My main curiosity with regards to her future activities beside the inequality dossier though has to deal with the fact that when Dr Parvanova last sat in the European Parliament she was a driving force in the area of Patient Rights – an issue she intends to continue to drive. Not the least because she will be shadow rapporteur for the Directive on cross border care is on the table although that directive also comprises other issues. But she explains that to her patient rights goes beyond this – over quality, access, affordability and safety all the way to information about medical services.

Another area of great concern for her is IVF. She explains that her interest is based on the fact that reproductive health is an area of huge differences in the member states. Invitro fertilisation is for example often not recognized as a speciality because as in Bulgaria it is only offered by private health providers. And reproductive issues are medical problems – to not help is according to Dr Parvanova to discriminate patients.

When our meeting is ending, I get a quick reminder of how down to earth and practical she is. She underlines the importance of a common reasonable approach to the swine flu. She says it is an important issue but the approach has to be consistent with other efforts. For her it is equally important with the normal flu vaccination for elderly. I must say that I understand her hesitation to the costs as she underlines that it’s not only to buy vaccines, the administration of the vaccines needs to be taken into calculation when decisions are made.

In conclusion I realise that she has as high ambitions for her mandate this time as the last time around and will be one of the most interesting MEPs to follow – where she goes things starts to happen. Maybe because she is not only nice and engaged - she knows her stuff as well.


  1. We wish she had the time to participate at our HIV launch on October 13... the HCP team.

  2. I know she has a good reason not to participate: the ALDE group is meeting in Berlin next week.

    But Im also sure her office will take a close look at the HIV index given that her excellent assistant Etienne, who worked for her already the previous period as a MEP, have worked with the HIV Europe meeting a couple of years back and knows the issue quite well.