08.06.2021 | Brussels Background The Conference on the future of Europe – on a way to a healthier European Union?

The “Conference on the Future of Europe” – a project that started with a year of delay and in the meantime caused a lot of power play between the political groups and the institutions. So, basically just another cute European initiative you think? Well, it might have bigger consequences than just having citizens “play Europe” – it could result in Treaty changes. And might also ruffle some feathers when it comes to the one competence that Member States hold so dear – health care.

In the face of rising anti-EU sentiment in 2017, French President Emmanuel Macron called for a new citizen-led vision for the European Union. The idea of the “Conference on the Future of Europe” was born. It shall enable people from across Europe to share their ideas and help shape Europe’s common future. The initiative also includes public discussions across the 27 Member States and a citizens’ panels organised by the EU institutions.

Sounds like a nice project, right? And why is this important enough to be shared in our little blog about health care topics, you ask? Well, we get there.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic one policy area is more in the spotlight than ever before: health. While the European Union only has very limited competences in health, voices are getting louder that this should finally change. In fact, this would most likely come with a Treaty change – and if there is anything scarier for EU policy-makers than returning to the Brexit negotiation table, then it is a treaty change. Normally. But things are not normal in times of a pandemic.

A scenario of a Treaty change on health has never been more realistic than in the aftermath of the pandemic and this Conference gives the perfect ground to make it happen. Hold on, not so fast: Something that could bother the ride to more EU health competences would be, as always, internal fights. The European institutions have already been struggling to define what they really want from this Conference and who should oversee what. The fight over power is an important one as handling over power comes with taking away power from somewhere else. For the Member States this would mean to give the Commission and Parliament more power in health. The third institution – the Council –, would lose one of its remaining core competences.  

In fact, we are already on track for a “healthier” European Union: with the Commission’s President Ursula von der Leyen declaring in September 2020 that Europe needs a Health Union – meaning the launch of new European agencies, such as the HERA. Moreover, the current EU health agencies should gain competences, such as the EMA and a regulation that would give the European Union more power when it comes to cross-border health threats.   All these initiatives are already possible within the boundaries of the Treaties without changing the text for one bit.

So why not stick to the guns we have and save the Treaty changes for when things have settled – Europe might have enough on its plate with regards to the post-pandemic recovery, something that can only be won with joint forces. And in order to get the best result, the Conference on the Future of Europe can be a good place to have debates with innovative minds and ideas and less of an institutional battleground.

Kontakt: Teresa Vázquez López (Büro Brüssel), bpi.brussels(at)bpi(dot)de

Hinweis: Die Verwendung des Fotos ist unter der Quellenangabe Shutterstock/Curioso.Photography und in Verbindung mit der Pressemeldung honorarfrei.