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Brussels, 1 June 2015 – On 13 May the European Commission issued the 2015 Country Specific Recommendations (CSRs) – the centrepiece of the European Semester process – and the first recommendations to be issued by the Juncker Commission (1). In line with the new Commission’s revision of the Semester process, the scope of the CSRs is substantially reduced, focusing on a number of specific issue areas where implementation can be concretely measures and is expected to contribute to investment, employment and growth (2). This reduction in scope, particularly in the health-related CSRs, stands in complete contrast to the Country Reports, which are the key supporting texts of the revised Semester and were published on 26 February (3).

Whereas the Country Reports contained some of the most detailed and prescriptive assessments made to date, the scope and depth of the CSRs has been reduced to 2011/12 levels, when recommendations made were vague, brief and, in the case of health, issued to only a handful of member states (4). This change reflects the Commission’s new approach, aimed at increasing ownership and implementation by focusing on a smaller range of key issue areas.

Whilst EPHA supports the goals of the Semester revision, in its extensive analyses of the 2015 Country Reports and CSRs, it urges the Commission to ensure that the Semester is equipped to support the social, as well as the economic, sustainability of member states (5). In particular, EPHA notes that the Semester – and in particular the CSRs – should take full account of the Health in All Policies (HiAP) principle to ensure that all recommendations work for the benefit of health and that all available levers are utilised in the fight to improve the health outcomes of Europeans.

‘The value of disease prevention and health promotion should not be overlooked in the battle to curb expenditure’, noted EPHA Secretary General, Nina Renshaw. ‘A shift to recommendations which can be visibly implemented is welcome but should not entail a narrowing of focus to areas where cost reduction can be easily measured at the expense of holistic, whole-system reform’.

Most crucially, EPHA urges that the Semester continue to maintain strong linkages with the Europe 2020 Strategy and to institutionalise dialogue between stakeholders, including the European Parliament, national parliaments, social partners and civil society. Genuine ownership and implementation can only grow from an inclusive preparation and drafting process.

Notes to editors

(1) CSRs were issued to 26 member states – all except Greece and Cyprus, which are subject to separate EU and IMF monitoring, plus the euro area. The full set of recommendations can be accessed here.

(2) The Commission’s revised approach to the Semester was outlined in the 2015 Annual Growth Survey, available here.

(3) The Country Reports replace the previous staff working documents and can be found here.

(4) In 2011 just four member states received CSRs relating to health. In 2012 this number rose to six, and again to 15 in 2013, reaching a peak of 19 in 2014. In 2015, this number has fallen to just 11. See EPHA Analysis of the 2015 CSRs (5).

(5) The EPHA Analyses of the 2015 Country Reports and the 2015 CSRs are available here and here respectively.

Contact information

Ellie Brooks, EPHA Policy Officer & Research Associate for Health Systems & Governance. T: +32(0) 2230 3056 E: e.brooks[at]epha.org

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