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       EU Policies 25/02/2009
Restructuring the European Parliament Committees

The move is likely to be welcomed by campaigners, who have complained that health issues are lost in the busy agenda of the environment, public health and food safety (ENVI) committee.


Intense discussions are underway which would lead to a major overhaul of several committees in an effort to bring greater efficiency to the work of MEPs and give greater weight to key areas like health, energy and the environment.


The starting point for sweeping reforms of the Parliament's committees is perceived dissatisfaction with the performance of the internal market and consumer protection committee (IMCO), particularly in its capacity for dealing with consumer issues.


MEP and parliamentary sources have said one option under serious consideration is the effective disbandment of IMCO.


If this were to happen, legal aspects of the internal market that are currently dealt with by IMCO would be handled by the legal affairs committee (JURI), while the industry, research and energy (ITRE) committee would take over responsibility for the economic and industrial elements of IMCO's current workload.


This permutation would see energy matters taken away from ITRE and paired with environmental issues, a combination described by one senior source as "a better fit" than existing combinations.


The shake-up would see health and consumer affairs dealt with under a single committee, which would cover the programme of work undertaken by DG SANCO (responsible for health and consumer affairs).


However, it would also have to deal with complex elements of the pharmaceutical package, including directives on information to patients and counterfeit medicines.


The pharmaceutical package was in fact published by DG Enterprise and Industry, due to its significant impact on Europe's pharmaceutical sector.


A number of groups representing patient associations and healthcare professionals have lobbied for greater input from DG SANCO on issues affecting patient safety, including medicines.


The workload related to health alone was "underestimated" by ENVI, which often prioritised environmental issues, according to a parliamentary insider.


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