Vilnius: two days to take the pulse of EU funding in the health sector

It was my first visit to Lithuania as EU Commissioner on 26-27 January, and I was lucky to be accompanied by my colleague EU Commissioner for Health and food safety Vytenis Andriukaitis. Indeed, the first part of the trip was rather “healthy” as we both attended a conference on ‘Networks of Healthcare Institutions’ at Vilnius University Hospital Santariskes.

Between 2007 and 2013, the EU invested about EUR 430 million in the health sector in Lithuania. The EU funds have contributed to improve the average life time expectancy by almost 4 years, decrease the mortality rate by 22%, lower infant mortality rate by almost 50%, and provided two thirds of the population with better access to quality health services at municipal level. Not a bad result!

I was also privileged to meet Lithuania Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis for a solid work meeting. Together we checked the implementation rate of EU funds in Lithuania (Good, check), and we agreed that the coming months will be crucial for the future of Cohesion Policy beyond 2020. Lithuania has benefited from a broad range of Cohesion Policy funds; Cohesion Policy helped Lithuania in terms of road infrastructure, energy, research, support to business, health… Now is the time for us to say it out loud, especially in these times of populism, nationalism, selfishness: Cohesion Policy alone won’t heal Europe, but Europe won’t heal without Cohesion Policy! I sent the same message to Lithuania’s Parliament European Affairs Committee.

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Finally, how not to mention the “Inspired by the future” fair in Vilnius? What an amazing experience: the fair displayed concrete realisations of EU funded projects that involved local communities into the project planning. It is rewarding to see that your projects become a beautiful source of inspiration not only inside Lithuania, but also for other European regions and cities. It reminded me that last year the “Lithuanian Transparency Initiative “firefly” won an award at our yearly REGIO STARS competition.

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