EU Policy. MEPs greenlight health budget cuts, with deferral

Lorem Copyright Alain ROLLAND/ European Union 2023 - Source : EP
Copyright Alain ROLLAND/ European Union 2023 - Source : EP
By Gerardo Fortuna
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Lawmakers were only able to exercise damage limitation on EU leaders' proposal to sacrifice one-fifth of the bloc’s health funds in support of Ukraine, pushing back attempts to overturn cuts to the next term.


The European Parliament’s budget and foreign affairs committees have rubber-stamped a €50bn support package for the war-torn Ukraine, while achieving a temporary reprieve for health budgets affected by the sum.

The so-called Ukraine Facility was proposed by the EU executive last June. In negotiations with member states held at the beginning of February, MEPs sought to reduce the impact on the bloc’s coffers as EU leaders controversially agreed to re-deploy €1bn from Europe’s largest health programme to finance the aid package.

In the text approved by the committees on 22 February lawmakers only managed to spare the EU health budget for this year and next, pushing cuts to the remaining annual instalments of the programme which will run until 2027.

Parliament will now formally back the text in plenary next Tuesday (27 February) in Strasbourg.

MEPs acknowledged limited room for manoeuvre in attempting to reverse health budget cuts, given speed is of the essence in the attempt to deliver first much-needed payments to Ukraine by March.

However, lawmakers promised to revisit the issue, claiming cutting corners on health would be detrimental to the bloc’s ambition for the sector.

With a €5.3bn funding line, the EU4Health programme was adopted to finance the bloc’s health strategy in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tomislav Sokol (Croatia/EPP) said in an event earlier this week that the European Council’s proposed cuts were “very unfortunate” and would negatively impact the bloc’s ongoing health activities, adding: “This is a major problem and we have to fight to get this funding back as soon as possible.”

The Parliament’s negotiator on the EU4Health programme, Cristian Bușoi (Romania/EPP) told Euronews that he is optimistic about the loss of money being partly rebalanced and readjusted during the annual budget spending.

“We should not forget that health must be a priority for the Union, but at the same time we should not forget that we have a programme destined for health that still has a robust budget,” he said.

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