Barcelona plans to vie for hosting the future European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA), which the EU Commission plans to launch in 2023. The Catalan government and the capital’s city council announced on Monday that they are holding talks to put together a bid before Brussels.
After visiting the biggest Covid-19 mass vaccination center in the Fira de Barcelona exhibition center, both the mayor Ada Colau and the Catalan health minister, Alba Vergés, confirmed that they had agreed to try to boost the bid. “We know there will be much competition because a lot of European cities will be interested in hosting this European agency to manage health emergencies, but we are confident that the research ecosystem in the city and in Catalonia would be excellent for such an agency,” said Colau, adding that they will work with all the administrations, universities as well as the private sector to make it possible.
Vergés said that they want to take part in the selection process “in full force,” and noted that the procedure will be fast because the new authority is expected to be up and running in 2023. Bernat Solé, Catalan foreign minister, said that trying to host HERA is “a clear way to boost Catalonia’s international presence,” since the new authority will be “essential” for enabling working in a coordinated way to combat health emergencies such as Covid-19.
Catalonia is strong in health sciences
Authorities believe that Catalonia has one of the most active ecosystems for health sciences, with 1,200 companies and 90 research and innovation centers – it makes up 7.3% of the Catalan GDP and 6.6% of the employment in the country. Both administrations have agreed to create a working group to prepare the bid and find support, such as from that of research centers in the biomedicine sector. They will also seek the backing of the Spanish government and, indeed, they have already informed the Spanish health minister, Carolina Darias, and foreign minister, Arancha González-Laya.
The HERA was announced in November 2020, amidst Covid-19, by the European Commission. For Brussels, it is “a central element for strengthening the European Health Union with better EU preparedness and response to serious cross-border health threats, by enabling rapid availability, access and distribution of needed countermeasures.”
The EU believes that the pandemic “revealed gaps in foresight, including demand/supply dimensions, preparedness and response tools” among the Union. It is now in the public consultation process, in which any EU citizen can have their say, before the Commission will adopt it “towards the end of 2021.”