Over the last four days, dozens of millions of Europeans have made their voice heard. By casting their vote at the European Parliament (EP) elections, they decided who they want to represent them in the upcoming 2014-2020 European Parliament term. The European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) encourages the new Parliament to ensure that health and well-being in Europe are brought into the heart of European policy-making.
28 May 2014 - At an informal EU Summit, Heads of State and Government asked Mr Van Rompuy, the President of the European Council, to begin negotiations on the Commission President once the new political groups are formed in the Parliament. Many of these groups will have a change in leadership and need to elect new Presidents. Mr Van Rompuy will also begin bilateral talks with the members of the European Council, including on the European Union’s future priorities and strategic agenda. He will report back to the European Council for the June Summit.
This was after the Presidents of the European Parliament groups deliberated and jointly invited the Council to start inter-institutional consultations to determine the European candidate to become the next Commission President. Now they should be able to form the necessary qualified majority in the European Parliament. Mr. Jean Claude Juncker, the candidate of the largest Group, the European People’s Party (EPP), will be the first to attempt to form the required majority.
EPHA encourages the Council to appoint a new Commissioner for health, boldly commit to work towards the well-being and health of people living in Europe.
The Socialist and Democrat Group argued that "Jean-Claude Juncker must now propose a work programme setting out clear priorities for job creation and growth through investment, a proposal for a comprehensive European migration and integration policy and an efficient fight against tax evasion."
The Greens/EFA group stated the following:"we will be inviting all candidates to a hearing in our group to determine their position on key issues such as freezing negotiations on the EU-US trade agreement (TTIP), an EU energy union with renewable energy at its heart and more effective financial regulation. Tackling tax avoidance and tax havens is also a core priority of our group."
At the EU Summit on the 27 May an informal dinner for Heads of States will discuss about process as it is “too early to decide about names”. EU leaders are expected to have a candidate in mind by their next regularly-scheduled summit at the end of June, which would enable the European Parliament to start its confirmation process when it goes back in session in July.
The new European Parliament will have to put aside partisan politics and look past corporate interests so that it rolls up its sleeves to push the public health agenda high up the priorities of European decision-makers. Health should be made a political issue and priority, not an afterthought of policy-making.
The last five years have been difficult for many people living in Europe. Unemployment, cuts to social support, lack of access to finance and the impacts of austerity have taken their toll on people, their health and their faith in the political processes and even democracy. The new European chamber must work to address the rise in inequality across Europe and set up mechanisms to better engage with citizens. For starters, the Parliament should work more towards an economic governance focused on people, not solely business interests. Strasbourg should also take a stronger stand to protect public health, consumer and worker rights when negotiating trade deals with third countries – starting with the EU-US trade and investment agreement.
With the increase in extremist and xenophobic parties in the elections, the health community will have to work hard to make sure that health inequalities remains a priority for action at the EU level. EPHA’s election manifesto, which is supported by several Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), calls on the new MEPs to champion equality legislation, active inclusion measures, and to support an inclusive society. During the next five years, EPHA will continue to work with the European Parliament and MEPs from many different groups to promote better health outcomes.
Leading up to the Commissioner-designates hearings in a couple of months, there will be many negotiations both in the Council over the Commission and in the Parliament for the different Committees. The involvement of civil society will be necessary to make sure that citizens don’t lose out in the horse-trading. EPHA will be keeping a watchful eye to ensure health is a priority both for the newly elected Parliament and the future College of Commissioners.
Photo: © Francois Lenoir/Reuters at Daily News.