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A move to a more social European Semester is good for health

24 November, 2017

The European Commission has published the Annual Growth Survey (AGS) which outlines the most pressing economic and social priorities for the Union and Member States. EuroHealthNet welcomes the increased focus on actions to tackle inequalities and poverty, to reduce barriers for disadvantaged groups, and to improve accessibility and affordability to quality preventive and curative health care. A more social AGS and European Semester could impact on the underlying causes of ill health and disease and improve health and wellbeing. This will in turn support long-term economic stability.

The AGS 2017 highlights the need for investment in education and health with policy actions that ‘enable people to stay healthy for longer’ and ‘ensur timely access to affordable preventive and curative healthcare of good quality’. It encourages countries to adapt their social protection legislation to respond to changes in the way people live and work and to the new realities in the labour market. There is a focus on promoting work-life balance and ensuring access to quality services for all, including childcare and early education.

However, more needs to be done. The ambitions contained within the AGS should be replicated in the forthcoming Country Specific Recommendations and translated into specific policy actions at state level. These actions should for example remove health related barriers to employment and social integration, improve mental health at work and increase investment in health promotion and disease prevention, as stressed in the “State of Health in the EU” report also published by the European Commission this week.

The European Pillar of Social Rights and the European Semester Process must be closely integrated and allow for strong stakeholder involvement. The progress of the Social Pillar should be monitored along economic parameters. The proposal to incorporate the Social Scoreboard results in economic and fiscal planning is welcome.

“The priorities set in the AGS 2018 is a stimulus for Member States and Health Ministries to strengthen their action on the social determinants of health and to prioritise tackling health inequalities. The new 28 Country Health Profiles which are part of “State of Hea;th in the EU”, provide complementary health data and analysis and could be used for further guidance. These joint efforts will improve health, social and economic prosperity”, said Caroline Costongs, EuroHealthNet Director.

EuroHealthNet has published an analysis of the European Semester from a health equity perspective. Read it here.

Read more about the Semester and our previous analysis here.


EuroHealthNet is the European Partnership for improving Health, Equity, and Wellbeing. It brings together public bodies working at local to regional, national, and international levels across Europe. Our mission is to help build healthier communities and tackle health inequalities within and between European States.

The Semester Process is the EU’s economic, fiscal, and social policy coordination mechanism.

The European Pillar of Social Rights is of a number of principles, rights, and initiatives to support well-functioning and fair labour markets, welfare systems, and resilient economic structures. It was proposed by the European Commission, and endorsed by Member States and European Institutions in November 2017.

The Social Scoreboard is part of the Social Pillar. It will monitor implementation by tracking trends and performances across EU countries in 12 areas.

The State of Health in the EU is a two-year initiative undertaken by the European Commission to provide factual, comparative data and insights into health and health systems in EU countries.

Useful links:

EuroHealthNet Semester analysis

European Semester website

Annual growth Survey 2017

State of Health in the EU and Country Health Profiles

Country Specific Recommendations 2016

Country Specific Recommendations 2017

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