Only 6 more days until the European elections. From 22-25 May, millions of people across Europe will have the opportunity to vote for their representatives in the European Parliament. We checked in with our Lilly colleagues in Europe, to see what their take is on the European elections, and what the key themes are in their countries. Today, we have 5 questions for the General Manager of Lilly Spain, Javier Ellena.
1. LillyPadEU: In Spain, what are the key themes debated in the run up to the European Elections?
Javier: The core of the campaign is the economic crisis. The political debates centre around austerity measures and economic recovery. The social costs associated with austerity measures are often discussed, particularly the high unemployment rate in Spain.
2. LillyPadEU: When looking at the current debate on healthcare in Spain, what, if any, is the impact of the EU campaign?
Javier: The healthcare system has suffered severely due to the austerity measures that have been implemented. If the country wants to maintain a well-functioning healthcare system, it is necessary to invest in more resources. If the necessary measures are developed, we will enjoy a healthy European society and consequently, we will see in the long term, a much more productive region. The healthcare system is highly appreciated by citizens but currently, it is clearly underfunded. It will be necessary to raise the level of investments (as a percentage of the GDP) closer to the level of other OECD countries to keep or improve the traditionally good health metrics we achieved in the past decades.
3. LillyPadEU: And how does Europe impact our industry in and beyond Spain?
Javier: At the end of the day and in general terms, we can say that everything coming from Europe like new laws, directives, regulations, priorities, etc., will impact in one way or another our country and our sector. Sometimes I tend to think that this fact has not been fully realized by the European citizens that take the European elections as an opportunity to express their satisfaction or disagreement with national governments. In other words, a great portion of voters use this election to express their support or to criticize governments just thinking in domestic issues while European concerns or topics stay out of the focus. It is easy to understand that, for a company like ours with an R&D centre in Spain where over hundred scientists work for the discovery of innovative medicines, as well as a manufacturing plant, which exports to more than 120 countries, the European policy and developments are critical. The same applies to the country as a whole and obviously to our sector, as it is very well known that the pharmaceutical industry is a highly regulated one. So, all new elements defining the framework in which we work come from Europe. So…we should not underestimate the importance of these elections.
4. LillyPadEU: Spain is an important country in Europe. How do you see its role in Europe, and, the role of Europe in the world?
Javier: Spain is the fifth economy in Europe and plays a strategic role connecting the continent with Latino-American countries due to our historical relationships. Due to its geographic location, relationships with the Magreb countries are also of great relevance. Beyond the traditional country assets like the culture, architecture, tourism, etc., Spain enjoys a very strong scientific community, biomedicine being one of the most brilliant examples. This, combined with the solid network of public hospitals and some leading public R&D institutions, puts the country in an attractive position to become a place where good science in biomedicine is being produced. All these elements together attract a good number of international researchers to Spain. We have seen many examples of this in the past few years.
5. LillyPadEU: As a leader in the biopharmaceutical industry, what top 3 health issues would you like to see addressed in Europe?
Javier: I’d like to see a strong, updated and competitive European policy to recover our competitiveness in the field of biomedicine innovation. There is an urgent need to stop and ideally reverse the declining trend of the European contribution to medical and pharmaceutical innovation.
Europe can also select 2-3 areas of clear unmet clinical needs where to build excellence and lead the world.
And finally, to create a simpler and leaner environment where innovative companies could see their IP rights better recognized and protected. For instance, being in Europe, decisions around IP coming from any court in Europe should be recognized by the rest of the EU members instead of forcing companies to fight to see their rights respected in each of the EU countries. Multiple processes are extremely complex, expensive and work against attracting innovation to Europe.