The new European Parliament committees at the heart of EU policy making, and implications for the healthcare sector
From 2 to 4 July 2019, the European Parliament (EP) held the first Strasbourg plenary session of its term. At this stage, the number of seats and the representatives of political groups in each committee was defined. In parallel, the Chair and Vice Chairs of each committee have been allocated to a political group; the groups will soon choose which Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) will take on each role. On 3 July every MEP was appointed to their committees for the five-year term to come. The new president of the EP is David-Maria Sassoli (S&D).
Role of EP committees and rapporteurs in the legislative process
The committees of the EP are at the heart of the EU legislative process. Legislative proposals from the European Commission are allocated to a lead committee and opinion committees to draft the Parliament’s position.
Each legislative dossier is headed by a rapporteur MEP, who is chosen by the EP political groups based upon their size (i.e. the larger the group the greater the influence). Typically, the rapporteur MEP develops a draft report of his or her amendments, which sets the direction of a legislative dossier, to which the other MEPs of the committee can table their own amendments. The report and amendments are then voted by all MEPs of the committee. The vast majority of issues are decided at the committee stage. Each file also has several opinion-giving committees, which can give input by tabling amendments. The final stage sees the whole Parliament voting (the plenary vote) on a draft Resolution.
The size of each political group determines its ability to bid for crucial rapporteurships on legislative and policy files. It follows that the EU elections results impact not only voting, but also the direction given to specific files at a critical step of the legislative process. The rapporteurs will be selected by the first week of September.
Overview of committees engaged on health policy
Committee membership has changed significantly because of the large turnover, 60% MEPs are new to the EP, and due to the shift in the political groups’ composition. The importance of individuals in committees is high and cross-party work will be more important than ever considering the more fragmented Parliament elected by EU citizens in May.
Lead Committee: Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI)
The ENVI committee will be chaired by an MEP of Renew Europe (RN, the former ALDE); expected to be Pascal Canfin who is a new French MEP and former head of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in France. ENVI is usually the lead committee on legislation related to public health.
The new leads for the ongoing HTA Regulation already reflect the overall high turnover of MEPs. The former rapporteur, Soledad Cabezón Ruiz (S&D) and several former shadow rapporteurs (other groups’ leads on a topic) are now no longer MEPs: Bolesław Piecha (ECR), Gesine Meissner (RN) and Françoise Grossetête (EPP) have retired. A new rapporteur and shadow rapporteurs will have to be appointed by the groups in the near future ahead of the committee beginning its work in earnest in September. The groups will also appoint their health co-ordinators to lead their committee delegations.
Essentially, there will be an entirely new dynamic formed in the Committee which will have to be monitored over the coming months. We can expect experienced MEPs such as Peter Liese (EPP) to lead the way in the early stages of the term. The Greens/EFA group will want to capitalize upon their electoral success. Priorities related to health are likely to include affordability of healthcare and endocrine disruptors (i.e. chemicals suspected to be able to interfere with hormone systems and associated with severe disorders). Environmentalists are hopeful of setting a progressive agenda for environment and health policy considering that if the S&D, GUE (left group), Greens and RN vote together they present a majority of 40 out of 76 MEPs.
- Returning key MEPs for health policy: Peter Liese (EPP, Germany), Cristian Silviu Bușoi (EPP, Romania), Miriam Dalli (S&D, Malta), Seb Dance (S&D, UK), Frédérique Ries (RE, Belgium), Margrete Auken (Greens, Denmark), Michèle Rivasi (Greens, France, only as substitute ENVI member), Piernicola Pedicini (NI, Italy, only as substitute ENVI member).
- New potential key MEPs for health policy: Ewa Kopacz (EPP, Poland, former Minister of Health), Bartosz Adam Arłukowicz (EPP, Poland, paediatrician and former Minister of Health), Dolors Montserrat (EPP, Spain, former Minister of Health), Sara Cerdas (S&D, Portugal, medical doctor), Véronique Trillet-Lenoir (RE, France, oncologist), Petra De Sutter (Greens, Belgium, gynaecologist), Jutta Paulus (Greens, Germany, pharmacist), Sylvia Limmer (ID, Germany, led a health biotech start-up), Joanna Maria Kopcińska (ECR, Poland, medical doctor and former Vice Chair of Polish parliament health committee).
Selected opinion giving Committees: Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE); Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO)
- ITRE: This committee leads on industry issues related to health and research programs including Horizon 2020/Horizon Europe. The return of health research champion Séan Kelly (EPP, Ireland) to the committee is encouraging for health stakeholders, and Miriam Dalli (S&D, Malta) will support health research with her dual position in ENVI and ITRE. However, there has been a significant turnover of committee membership.
- IMCO: This committee more regularly takes an opinion committee role due to its relevance to the single market for health products. Experienced Andreas Schwabb (EPP, Germany), who is sensitive to public health issues, will return to the IMCO committee while former Commission Vice President Andrus Ansip (RE, Estonia) will be an interesting addition having focused on e-health as part of his former Digital Single Market portfolio.
The new EU policy making environment appears challenging to navigate for healthcare stakeholders. The fact that the European Parliament is more fragmented and because of the significant turnover of MEPs who were engaged on health policy, previous experience and insight will be critical. Nuanced understanding of the EU institutions, processes and politics will be crucial to understand developments and identify how they impact your organization’s activities. 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.