EventsEventsPodcasts
Loader
Find Us
ADVERTISEMENT

Idea of new health committee in Parliament meets resistance

Members of the Sub-committee on Public Health in the Parliament.
Members of the Sub-committee on Public Health in the Parliament. Copyright European Union 2023 - Source : EP
Copyright European Union 2023 - Source : EP
By Marta Iraola Iribarren
Published on
Share this articleComments
Share this articleClose Button

Despite the EPP's push for a specific health committee in the new European Parliament, the proposal is resisted by other political groups and stakeholders.

ADVERTISEMENT

With new European institutional planning in preparation, the Parliament's largest political group has proposed creating a committee dedicated to health, as distinct from an existing entity - ENVI - which deals with the environment, public health and food safety. 

The European People's Party wants the new committee to focus to health issues, which it considers go unnoticed in the larger committee, but the idea is criticised by others who fear that separating topics could jeopardise the cross-sectoral nature of public health.    

During the last mandate, health discussions were usually held under the ENVI committee, with subcommittees set up for specific topics.  

Such sub-committees have been created to handle cancer and lessons learned from the pandemic for example.     

The closest thing to an autonomous health committee has been a dedicated health subcommittee of ENVI.    

Outgoing MEP Tomislav Sokol (Croatia/EPP) has been a vocal advocate for the new committee, saying that "the integration of environment and health in the ENVI committee seems misaligned, given the distinct and critical nature of each area.”  

“This committee would be instrumental in addressing the complexities of public health more effectively and advancing the well-being of all European citizens," Sokol told Euronews.     

While the structure of the committees is still being negotiated by the different political groups, German MEP Peter Liese, the EPP's coordinator for the environment committee, seems certain that the split will happen.     

“It is not 100% fixed [...] But there seems to be a growing consensus among the leaders of the different groups," Liese told reporters.    

Other political groups and stakeholders are resisting the idea however.    

“I think there are many reasons for having one [health committee], but probably more, and more important for not having one," MEP Nils Torvalds, ENVI coordinator at Renew Europe, told Euronews.    

He said that the new health committee would mean an increase in the number of reports and detach the liaison between health issues with those related to the environment, social, economic and budgetary.     

Need to maintain 'One Health' approach

This concern is shared by other political groups, who see the so-called 'One Health' approach - the principle that human, animal and environmental health are inextricably linked - threatened by the split.    

MEP Tilly Metz (Luxembourg/Greens) told Euronews that leaving health issues to a dedicated committee risks fostering a "silo mentality".     

“We must avoid siloed thinking, as health encompasses more than just healthcare and medicines. Public health includes climate and environmental concerns, healthy food, prevention, social policies, research, and safety, all of which are crucial," she added.     

ADVERTISEMENT

The Socialist group said that it has always been a strong supporter of the One Health principle, which is best served in the ENVI committee, with its health sub-committee remaining in place.        

In recent years, the World Health Organisation, the European Commission and various health agencies have strongly advocated this approach and the integration of health into all policies to prepare for threats such as climate change and zoonotic diseases.     

Anne Stauffer, deputy director at Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) said in a press release that separating the committees “would be a disservice to people, as they are increasingly experiencing the health impacts of climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss.”   

Health and safety at work

"I see big problems with the creation of a standing health committee if, for example, it undermines the ability to address occupational health and safety alongside other workers' rights,” recently elected MEP Per Clausen, from The Left, told Euronews.   

ADVERTISEMENT

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) sent an email to MEPs on 1 July sking them to defend the prerogative of the Parliament's employment committee and to ensure that occupational health and safety remains within its remit.    

The letter warned that hiving the issues off might undermine employers' obligations and could "dilute employers' liability to prevent risks at the workplace, weakening the robust framework that currently holds employers accountable.”   

The union added that it's important to remember that health competences in the EU are still national and administered by member states, which could make it difficult to enforce legislation such as health and safety at work.   

Share this articleComments

You might also like