First insights into the European Parliament 2019 elections: impact on the healthcare sector
The citizens of the European Union (EU) went to the polls last week to elect a new European Parliament. Each of the twenty-eight EU Member States held an election between Thursday and Sunday to elect MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) who will serve a five-year term lasting until 2024.
The European Parliament, being the only directly elected institution of the EU, has gained a growing influence on EU policy and legislation throughout the last four decades. As one of the co-legislators in the EU law-making process, the newly elected European Parliament will play a decisive role in shaping the future EU regulatory framework for the healthcare sector.
- More fragmented and unpredictable: the results of by far the most high-profile EU poll to date, resulting in the highest turnout in twenty years (around 50%), were announced last night. The European People’s Party (EPP, Centre-Right) and the Socialists and Democrats (S&D, Centre-Left) lost a considerable number of seats. They remain the two largest groups but no longer have a clear majority. The greater share of seats for the Liberals and Democrats (ALDE), Greens (Greens/EFA) and Eurosceptics (including the EFDD and ENF groups) means that the European Parliament will be a more fragmented and complex place to find majorities and to make legislation.
- Rising Euroscepticism – but less than expected: the proportion of Eurosceptic MEPs has increased. It remains to be seen how effectively the Eurosceptic and right-wing parties will be able to form a bloc to truly influence the European Parliament’s strategic direction.
Impact on decision making at the EU level:
- Slowing down: the new balance resulting from the higher proportion of Eurosceptics could conceivably slow down the European Parliament’s decision making on matters pertaining to expanding the EU’s competences and responding together as a bloc to global developments. The new intricacy of EU decision making will likely be demonstrated very soon during the process to appoint the new European Commission from Member State nominees, which are vetted by the Parliamentary committees, and to elect a new Commission President to replace Jean-Claude Juncker.
Impact on healthcare topics:
- Prioritization: the development of new policy initiatives and work on existing ones could be affected. As healthcare is not seen as a core priority of the EU, it may be deprioritized in a scrap for resources and political capital. It could also be slowed down due to the increased complexity of the decision making environment and pluralistic setting in which negotiations will take place.
- Changes in committees relevant to health: the results signal changes to come in policy making and drafting of legislation in the field of healthcare. The roster of the Committee on Environment, Health and Food Safety (ENVI) will represent the same balance of parties as the European Parliament as a whole. The new and more complex balance of power will make cross-party coalitions even more important. The relative influence of the medium-sized ALDE (Liberals and Democrats) and Green parties has increased as potential kingmakers for a majority on decisive votes; each of them can individually create a majority coalition together with the two largest parties, the EPP and the S&D. Maintaining constructive cross-party relationships will therefore become more important.
For health policy, and in the European Parliament’s committees in general, the individual personalities of MEPs are influential too. Cross-party coalitions are often built based upon mutual respect for supposed opponents. Consequently, the allocation of MEPs to committees in July will be the next crucial indicator of the direction health policy will take in the next five years.
The new EU policy making environment appears challenging to navigate for healthcare stakeholders. Nuanced understanding of the EU institutions, processes and politics will be crucial to understand developments and identify how they pose commercial opportunities and threats. SFL’s experienced Public Affairs team can support you to navigate the increasingly turbulent political environment and ultimately to ensure your voice is heard by policy makers.