For Europe’s recovery to be successful and sustainable, people must be put front and centre. Their health must be protected and promoted, and measures to do so must be integrated into all budgetary and recovery programmes. For a strong and stable future, no groups should be or feel ‘left behind’.

EuroHealthNet, representing statutory bodies responsible for public health, calls on European Union leaders and political decision-makers in the Council, Parliament, and Commission to take concerns of citizens seriously and ensure integrated approaches for the health and wellbeing of all. We particularly encourage those working on environment, employment, education, social protection, and digitalisation to play their part in improving health and building a better future. The call comes as policymakers consider the ‘State of the European Union’ in 2020 and negotiations enter a critical final stage on budgets for recovery from the COVID-19 crisis and for the next seven years.

“September is the critical month to get decisions – which will impact hugely on the health and wellbeing of hundreds of millions of people – right, ” said EuroHealthNet Director Caroline Costongs. “We can welcome much of the currently proposed recovery package and budgets, but it is not good enough. There are serious risks that vital work tackling inequalities, health and wellbeing will fall short of ambition in programmes such as EU4Health, ESF+, InvestEU, HorizonEurope, Next Generation EU, and the Green Deal initiatives.”

EuroHealthNet recognises that much has changed since the European Commission President Von der Leyen set out her political priorities to the European Parliament a year ago. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed our systems as ill-prepared, unsuitable, exacerbating inequalities, and damaging our environment. A return to the old ways will not be effective or acceptable. EuroHealthNet’s assessment is that the ‘State of the European Union’ is precarious, but it can improve if bold and wise decisions on its future are made this month.

“Our members on the ground in Member States and regions are telling us they need clear EU support to help them tackle the new forms of poverty and vulnerability that are emerging. This is also related to the ongoing digital and environmental transition. They ask for support to implement new public health concepts, not only bio-medical but also psycho-social measures. By doing that, we must work together with people in need, develop and share solutions through the best research, science and evidence, and build capacities and empower people to act locally and globally” – said EuroHealthNet President Mojca Gabrijelcic

In the EC ‘State of the European Union’ speech and the Parliament Plenary, followed by the European Council summit, EuroHealthNet is calling for a set of integrated approaches to be applied:

  • People need to be re-assured that health, research, social and Green Deal programmes respond to their needs: that means all authorities and people responsible for delivery at regional and local levels are involved in design as well as implementation, that end-users are being heard and best available evidence is used.
  • People need to be convinced that funds like Next Generation EU, Just Transition, HorizonEurope and Invest EU will be spent on common priorities for wellbeing: that means ensuring maximum transparency, access and accountability for the European Semester governance of economic, social and environmental measures.
  • People need clear implementation of measures in the European Pillar of Social Rights and action to take forward the Economy of Wellbeing principles. Both have been well proposed but are in danger of being overlooked in the current COVID-19 crisis.
  • People need to be confident that the EU has learnt the true lessons of the pandemic and will help to equip everyone fairly and openly for the challenges ahead. We all still face the climate emergency and the digital transition, as well as changes in the ‘world of work’. We must still address the chronic crisis of non-communicable diseases.
  • People need to be sure the EU will act for ‘glocal’ wellbeing – to be a stronger actor for health, rights and equity and ensure all people of all ages and backgrounds have opportunities to develop their skills through the new EU Skills Agenda, achieving health and digital literacy plus building European values and democracy.

Europe, like the rest of the world, is in transition. We call on the European Union to now play its role for smart, integrated, sustainable promotion of health and wellbeing as well as the reduction and prevention of inequalities. Only then we can achieve Sustainable Development Goals and face an ambitious post-pandemic future that benefits everyone.