The European Union (EU) has adopted two programmes on pollution-related illnesses and rare diseases, following agreement by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers. Acting European Commissioner for Health Matters Padraig Flynn welcomed the news "as a step in the right direction". He said the Commission was delighted that work could start immediately on action to prevent such diseases, which have increased dramatically in recent years. The first programme aims to bring about EU-wide understanding of pollution-related ailments and their prevention. It also sets out to increase cooperation so that efforts in the field are not unnecessarily duplicated and to encourage Member States to adopt the best solutions to common problems. The programme will run from 1 January 1999 to 31 December 2001 and its financial budget is set at 3.9 million euro. In a similar vein, the rare diseases programme aims to improve knowledge and transnational cooperation between voluntary and professional support groups so that disease clusters can be handled and monitored most effectively. The programme will run from 1 January 1999 to 31 December 2003 and the budget for the first year of implementation (1999) is set at 1.3 million euro. The financial framework for the final four years (2000-2003) will be determined in detail later. To implement the programmes, the Commission will be assisted by an advisory committee of representatives of the Member States. There will also be co-operation with institutions and organisations active in the field of pollution-related and rare diseases. Mr Flynn said he regretted that the length, scope and funding of the programme in the initial Commission proposal on pollution-related diseases had been scaled down and he was sorry not to see any mention of training initiatives, information campaigns or assistance for self-help groups in the fight against respiratory conditions and allergies. However, he said he was pleased to recall that the Commission, Parliament and Council had declared that, in the future public health programme, they would pay particular attention to rare and pollution-related illnesses and give careful consideration to the relevant budgetary aspects. This, he said, "reaffirmed the commitment to ensuring these two important areas of disease prevention remained high on the EU agenda."