Will the New European Parliament be a Healthy One?

June 22, 2024

So, the dust has settled after the European elections, and now, frantic bargaining begins on who will have what position and which Committees will be established. One could shrug it off and say it does not matter, except that it does.

Over the decades, the European Parliament has gained its statutory powers, and European election results shape the political landscape of the European Institutions.

The previous von der Leyen Commission, impacted by COVID and driven by personal conviction of the importance of Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, would have us almost forget that health is not an exclusive EU competence. While items like the Pharma package or European Health Data Space might be regulated at the EU level, the legal basis is always linked to Article 114, which aims to facilitate the smooth functioning of the internal market.

Public health and the organisation of healthcare systems are not the competence of the EU but of Member States. Regulating health-related issues at the EU level is always political. The European Parliament’s perceived lack of support for certain initiatives is sometimes used by other officials as an excuse for inaction.

With political priorities shifting, Europe’s Beating Cancer plan is no longer a flagship project: health-related topics will fall off the mainstream agenda. This is precisely why it is even more important to secure the support of the European Parliament.

Looking at the results one can be optimistic that some strong Health Champions got re-elected and some new ones might join them. Among them, the highest hopes come with Vytenis Andriukaitis, the previous EU Health Commissioner.

While at the time of writing this article, we do not have the final MEPs confirmed, some names that caught our attention and give reasons for optimism are:

Katerina Konecna (Czechia), Peter Liese (Germany), Adam Jarubas (Poland), Tilly Metz (Luxembourg), Jutta Paulus (Germany), Nicolae Stefănuță (Romania), Katrin Langensiepen (Germany), Tiemo Woelen (Germany), Monica Benova (Slovakia), Nicolás González Casares (Spain), Brando Benifei (Italy), Helene Fritzon (Sweden), Alessandra Moretti (Italy), Irena Joveva (Slovenia), Andreas Glueck (Germany), Susana Solís Pérez (Spain), Biljana Borzan (Croatia), Dolors Montserrat (Spain), and Pascal Canfin (France).

We are painfully aware that around 2% (16 MEPs out of 720) is not a great reason for optimism, but we look forward to working with all MEPs to improve outcomes for digestive cancer patients. We hope that by the end of this term, we can consider more MEPs as Health Champions.

Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan was an important framework, but it has not yet fulfilled all its potential. The new European leadership needs to ensure that tangible results for patients across Europe will be delivered. Otherwise, it risks destroying its own legacy and not connecting with the Europeans on the issue that matters to them—health.

Aleksandra Kaczmarek

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