EPHA Newsletter | The European Parliament’s shift to the right: what are the implications for EU health policy?

The recent EU elections, which took place on 6-9 June, represent a pivotal moment for Europe. Citizens were called to the ballot box to uphold European democracy and express what matters to them. Ahead of the elections, EPHA and its members, along with a multitude of different actors from civil society, partnered with the European Parliament in an election campaign to promote the importance of voting. 

Now Europe has spoken. With the EU elections behind us, we can reflect on the results and the impact they may have on people’s health. The European Parliament has shifted to the right, with the far right also gaining seats. This shift was less prominent than expected, but still has significant consequences. A more right-leaning European Parliament might mean more watered-down EU health policy, with the pretext of upholding Member States’ national competence on health. Some policy files might be dropped, and priorities might change, but to what extent? Much will depend on what will happen in the coming weeks, from political groups and coalition formation to the distribution of key positions within the European Commission and the European Parliament.  

As highlighted in EPHA’s opinion piece on the European Commission’s recent Communication on the European Health Union, significant steps for EU health policy were made in the last mandate. However, many challenges persist. Ahead of the EU elections, we published an analysis of the European political parties’ manifestos, in which we assessed the main parties’ health plans and ambitions. Some pressing topics were overall found to be lacking, notably non-communicable diseases, the health and care workforce issue and lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic, for instance. Health might be at risk of losing its importance on the political agenda, with some significant files facing the possibility of being dropped between the two mandates. Following the elections, this analysis represents a solid tool that can be used by civil society to hold MEPs accountable for the promises made.  

It is therefore critical that civil society organisations come together and strongly advocate for upholding the EU’s momentum on health, and to further improve the health and wellbeing of millions of people across Europe. It is now the time to identify the health champions for this new mandate and start building relations with them to guarantee a strong collaboration, holding them accountable when necessary. As the new European Parliament and Commission are slowly starting to take form, the united voice of health civil society organisations must be ready to speak up.  

In this newsletter, we have the pleasure to present guest articles from the European Liver Patients’ Association (ELPA), the European Parliament and the EU Food Policy Coalition. These give insights on the role of civil society organisations in promoting democracy and people’s health, as well as on the impact that the results of the European elections might have on food systems. 

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