Tuesday, January 21 was the last day for Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to support a written declaration on allergic disease, and it was not adopted. For the declaration to pass, a majority of MEPs needed to sign their name to it. In all, the declaration received 177 signatures—over 200 votes short of being adopted by the European Parliament.
What does this all mean? Here’s a little background info:
- Switzerland: Although Switzerland is not a member of the European Union, and therefore does not elect a member of the European Parliament, one of the organizations actively supporting this declaration is based in Zurich—the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI).
- Written Declaration 0022/2013 and food allergies: This declaration includes all types of allergic disease, such as allergic rhinitis and food allergies. As written in the declaration, “More than 17 million Europeans suffer from food allergies or severe allergies implying a risk of acute attacks or anaphylaxis with life-threatening potential.” Eleven MEPs proposed the declaration in October 2013, which began a 3-month period to collect signatures for its adoption.
- What the declaration asked for: The declaration focuses on the need to recognize the burden of allergic disease and address the “diagnosis gap,” as about 50 percent of people with allergies are undiagnosed, according to a recent EAACI press release. Specifically, the two-page declaration outlines the following activities:
“to encourage cooperation and coordination between Member States to promote: national allergy programmes to reduce the disease burden and health inequalities; training in allergies and multidisciplinary care plans to improve disease management; use of preventive and tolerance-inducing approaches to allergy treatment; and scientific research into direct and indirect allergy risk factors, including pollution;” (p. 2).
In my opinion, it’s disappointing that more MEPs did not support Written Declaration 0022/2013. The declaration doesn’t require major reforms, but rather what seems like an incremental approach to addressing allergic disease in the European Union. The specific activities listed for Member States to promote, such as national allergy programs or preventive and tolerance-inducing treatments, do not appear controversial.
Furthermore, written declarations as a policy tool have relatively limited influence. Approved declarations only apply to those MEPs who have signed on. In other words, even if a majority of MEPs approve the declaration, it still doesn’t represent the official position or serve as a legally binding document for the entire European Parliament.
“A written declaration is a text of a maximum of 200 words relating exclusively on a matter falling within the competence of the European Union. They do not, however, bind Parliament, that is, they cannot be considered as an act of the Parliament representing its position, but only those of its authors and signatories.” –European Parliament/Plenary website, see Written Declarations
While the European Parliament didn’t adopt this declaration, the campaign for this effort helped raise awareness of allergic disease, including food allergies. For example, EAACI organized three days of skin prick tests in the European Parliament. In all, 350 people were tested, and 47 percent had positive test results.
Earlier today, EAACI and the European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases Patients’ Associations (EFA) in Brussels released a joint press release. It contained the following statement from EAACI’s President:
“Allergic diseases should be included in initiatives concerning chronic diseases at national and European level. The European Commission has the capacity to coordinate efforts to respond to the challenges of chronic diseases. Now is the time to act!” -Professor Nikos Papadopoulos, EAACI President
If you have any questions or information to provide about Written Declaration 0022/2013, please leave a comment below. In the meantime, I’ll continue to share public policy updates related to food allergies for Switzerland and beyond as they come up. Bon week-end!