The Annual Growth Survey: the 2015 review of economic governance should include health, equity and wellbeing objectives

With the adoption of the 2015 Annual Growth Survey (AGS) today, the European Commission begins the fourth cycle of economic policy coordination known as the EU Semester. It sets out the economic priorities over the next year, and aims to foster growth and prevent excessive macro-economic imbalances. The AGS 2015 recommends pursuing an economic and social policy based on three main pillars: (1) a boost to investment, (2) a renewed commitment to structural reforms and (3) the pursuit of fiscal responsibility

The emphasis on social policy and the recognition of social consequences of macro-economic imbalances could represent an important step forward if social considerations are stressed equally throughout the EU Semester process.  The AGS 2015 also proposes modernizing social protection systems for efficiency and financial sustainability and accessibility of healthcare systems. To be able to deliver on these goals, a better balance of economic and other objectives as set out in the EU treaties are needed, including the responsibility to protect health (art 168) and promoting well-being (art I-3). Health and wellbeing are intrinsically linked to poverty and social exclusion and need to be comprehensively addressed in order to achieve growth and prosperity for all.  Such “whole-of-society” approaches should be reflected in the National Reform Programmes and subsequently in Country-Specific Recommendations.

In addition, the involvement of regional and local authorities throughout the whole EU Semester is needed to convert these 2015 priorities into concrete actions. It is positive that the AGS 2015 recognises the need to involve all relevant stakeholders. This is important to improve ‘ownership’ of the process and must include (sub)national partners, such as regional and local authorities. Too often, potential partners outside national-level ministries are not being systematically engaged in the design of the process and identifying priorities, which is a missed opportunity to incorporate their expertise and improve accountability of Europe 2020.

The draft Joint Employment Report accompanies the AGS 2015 and for a second time includes a scoreboard of employment and social policies. Commissioner Thyssen told the European Parliament that she would make efforts to give more weight to social indicators. The social scoreboard reinforces the social dimension of the EU’s economic governance by more quickly identifying employment and social divergences within the Eurozone. The social scoreboard should include health, equity and wellbeing indicators and it is important to align the work of the EU on developing indicators with WHO Europe and OECD efforts to measure health and wellbeing. The future work of Commissioner Andriukaitis on health system performance must also be rooted in measuring the effectiveness of health promotion and interventions to achieve health equity.

Focusing purely on economic objectives and growth ignores the inclusive and sustainable dimensions of Europe 2020. With over 120 million people in the EU living at risk of poverty and close to 22% of young people unemployed, the follow up to the Annual Growth Survey 2015 must be rooted in the Social Investment Package and include investments in health and wellbeing. We know equal and healthy societies perform better. EuroHealthNet and its national and regional partners are already contributing to such whole-of-society approaches.” says Caroline Costongs, EuroHealthNet Managing Director.

 

  • To access further recommendations on involving regional and local authorities and on “EU support for local and regional action on health equity” from SALAR, Euregha and EuroHealtNet, click here.