Dutch presidency has seen a quiet revolution in public health

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: (Published 14 June 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:1709

Professor Els Borst-Eilers has come to the end of her six month term as Dutch president of the European Union. She tells Tony Sheldon that she feels important steps have been achieved.

Dutch health minister Professor Els Borst-Eilers decided to become a doctor as a child while enduring the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam. A doctor, she thought, would be useful in the “next” war.

Professor Borst has had a varied career in medicine


Her background in medicine has proved to be more than useful. Last week in Luxembourg she chaired the European Union's Council of Health Ministers as part of a Dutch presidency that has witnessed a quiet revolution in the union's role in public health. Under her leadership work will now begin in areas such as health monitoring, surveillance of infectious diseases, and professional standards for migrating doctors.

Ministers met against a backdrop of the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) crisis, which resulted in a revamped health role for the European Commission with the launch of Emma Bonino's consumer policy and health protection unit alongside the public health responsibilities of Padraig Flynn.

“I should try to do everything in my power …

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