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SIP 2019: The future of pain on the political agenda in Europe

Thomas Isenberg, Deirdre Ryan, Thomas Tölle, Monica Ensini

SIP 2019: The future of pain on the political agenda in Europe
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The future of pain on the political agenda in Europe


  • Thomas Isenberg, German Pain Society
  • Deidre Ryan, Pain Alliance Europe (PAE)
  • Monica Ensini, DG Research, European Commission
  • Thomas Tölle, European Pain Federation EFIC

Moderators: Michael von Fisenne (Grünenthal), Sam Kynman (European Pain Federation EFIC)

Session Objective

The European elections in May 2019 ushered in a new European College of Commissioners, a new President of the Council of the EU, and a new legislative period for the European Parliament. In this session, speakers discussed how the new political environment will impact pain policy at EU-level. Speakers will also explore opportunities with the upcoming German Presidency in 2020.

Policy Opportunities

With the new impetus that comes with a new legislative period, there is an opportunity to renew focus on the societal impact of pain at policy-level, continue to call for and implement pain-focused policy initiatives at European-level, as well as gather further support of SIP initiatives. The new European Commission announced a health-specific focus on “beating cancer”, with a specific focus on survivorship and palliative care, where pain is a key factor. In addition, with the upcoming German Presidency’s focus on digital health, there is opportunity to highlight the importance of pain in other key diseases areas.


Following the European elections in May 2019, the European Institutions returned to work in September. The new European Parliament legislative period started on 2 September 2019, whilst the newly appointed Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, presented her new College of Commissioners on 10 September 2019. The new Health Commissioner, Stella Kyriakides, has herself mentioned that she is a chronic disease patient and health advocate.

The European Parliament’s 2019-2024 legislative period saw the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) and centre-left Socialists & Democrats (S&D) lose their large majorities as well as welcomed the arrival of more newly elected Members, than before. This diversity could signify changes in political agreements, priorities, and coalitions during the decision-making process.

The Presidency of the Council of the EU is not affected by the European elections as the Presidency is run by the Member State government, as appointed through an agreed rotational system, for a period of six months. The Presidency is responsible for the functioning of the Council of the EU. This includes chairing all Council meetings, determining the work programme and priorities during that time, and facilitate dialogue with other EU Institutions, e.g. concerning new EU legislation and positions. To ensure a smooth and continued programme, Presidencies are grouped as “Trios”. The German Presidency will take place between 1 July and 31 December 2020 and will be the first of the Trio, with Portugal and Slovenia.

SIP has previously received support from EU Presidencies including:

  • The Hungarian Presidency’s support for the 2011 SIP Symposium (1) and agreed for the use of its logo during the Symposium.
  • Facilitating support from the Danish Presidency in 2012.
  • In 2014, under the Italian Presidency, Health Ministers (2) reached a common position on pain therapy during the informal Health Council meeting, including this position in its subsequent Council Conclusions. For the first time the European Health Ministers jointly stressed the relevance of the Societal Impact of Pain. They also reached a common position on the need to create a European network regarding pain therapy, ensuring training of professionals in the sector and exchange of information on the effectiveness of therapies for the weakest population groups.
  • SIP 2017 (3) was made possible with the support of the Maltese Ministry for Health Malta and financial support provided by the Maltese Ministry for Finance and took place under the auspices of the agenda of the 2017 Maltese Presidency of the Council of the EU. Under the leadership of the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the EU, EU Health Ministers agreed on the evaluation of the current access to treatment for patients with chronic pain (4).


  4. Council of the European Union; Council conclusions on Encouraging Member States-driven Voluntary Cooperation between Health Systems; 16 June 2017; Official Journal of the European Union; (2017/C 206/02);; see also

You can find more materials from the SIP 2019 Symposium here:

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  1. Societal Impact of Pain (SIP)
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