20.05.2019 | Brussels Background European Elections – Healthcare’s time to shine Part II

In our January edition we toyed with the idea that healthcare could become the superstar topic to win the voters’ hearts. And apparently we weren’t so wrong with that idea. From Manfred Weber’s “European Master Plan against cancer” to Jean-Claude Juncker’s recommendations for the new Commission not to drop health care topics – the awareness is there. But how do we move from mere awareness to tangible actions that improve the healthcare of EU citizens? The answer lies in the ballot on the 26th!

The healthcare community in Brussels has some fears with regards to the polls: From the end of DG SANTE to a eurosceptic Health Commissioner, the hopes for a bright future for healthcare don’t seem too high. However, there is hope as two heavyweights have put healthcare on their radar. This seems to resonate with many Europeans, as 70% of the citizens want the European Union to do more in the field of healthcare.

For one, there is EPP Spitzenkandidat Manfred Weber who presented his “European Masterplan against cancer” earlier this month. Weber demands that the war against cancer should be the number one priority of the next European Commission and explains what is needed to improve the survival rates by 2030. Weber acknowledges that the existing potential in Europe needs to be used better in the future. Europe already has excellent universities and research facilities but more support and cooperation is needed to stimulate research advancement. Further to this it is crucial to finally start seizing the benefits that digitisation can offer to the healthcare sector. All in all, his masterplan points out one important fact: to take up the fight against cancer, the European Member States have to join forces and work closely together.

Another demand to include healthcare in the priorities for the upcoming five years, comes from the current President of the European Commission. Admittedly, in the past healthcare was certainly not a priority for Juncker who even described the idea of reducing EU-level healthcare efforts as one of the possible scenarios for the future of Europe. But in a strategic document – a contribution to the informal EU27 leaders' meeting in Sibiu – Juncker now acknowledges that healthcare has to be prioritised by the next European Commission to ensure “high-quality, affordable and sustainable healthcare” throughout the whole European Union.

However there are a few decisive factors which will be crucial when it comes to accomplishing these visions. First of all, a European Commission that prioritises healthcare as much as economic, industrial and financial strategies is of the essence. Further to this, achieving tangible results in healthcare strongly depends on who will take the position of the next Health Commissioner. From experience, health has always been assigned to smaller Member States. But maybe it’s time that a more influential one will compete for a job that is so closely related to the needs of Europeans. Moreover, the European Parliament plays an important role as well. Even if the European Commission will put health high on the agenda, the parliament shapes European legislation significantly. If Eurosceptics will take as many seats as expected, they could win up to a fourth of all seats in the parliament. The danger that lies in this scenario is that it is their declared goal to slow down the processes of the European Parliament as much as they can. A nightmare scenario that would paralyse the European Union.

But it’s not only the European Union’s turn – the industry has responsibilities as well and has to do its homework. The industry should use the momentum and show continued support for European initiatives in a constructive way with all its knowledge and manpower. This way Europe can maintain and strengthen its position as a number one research and science hub to ensure the best healthcare environment for its citizens.

There is only thing left for us to say: We’ve raised awareness – now it’s your time to ensure a working continuity – go to the polls on the 26th! Your voice matters!