Will the European Semester bring health equity? Findings from the Recovery and Resilience Plans in eight Member States
Today, EuroHealthNet launches its latest analysis of the 2022 cycle of the European Union’s (EU) economic and social policy coordination, known as the European Semester. Based on interviews with public health experts, the analysis dives into eight Member States’ use of the EU Recovery and Resilience Facility and its impact on health equity and wellbeing. This timely launch coincides with a policy debate on the European Semester 2023 cycle in the European Council (EPSCO), taking place today, and adds to the ongoing review of whether the Recovery and Resilience Facility is still fit for purpose.
As Europe deals with the aftermath of the pandemic, in addition to the climate crisis, global conflict, and larger demographic change and technological revolution, we see that people with the fewest resources are less able to cope and adapt. Indeed, the recent Health at a Glance 2022 report finds that wealth and health inequalities are widening.
The Recovery and Resilience Facility helps EU Member States to mitigate these multiple crises, facilitate a green and digital transition, and promote wellbeing and equality through investments and reforms. EuroHealthNet interviewed 24 public health experts in eight Member States (Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Italy, Lithuania, Spain, Sweden) about the implementation of their country’s Recovery and Resilience Plans, identifying inspiring initiatives by public health actors to contribute to more resilient future societies.
However, system reforms take time. The sustainability of these initiatives will largely depend on whether governments keep positioning health and wellbeing strongly as both a means to and an outcome of economic development. Yet, as the EPSCO Council discuss the European Semester 2023 cycle today, Ministries of Health are not at the table, despite their relevance to the debates on economic governance reforms.
“Health, equity and wellbeing need to become transversal and intrinsic objectives of the European Semester process, just as digital and environmental concerns are now – rightly – reflected in the annual cycles.”
Prof. Dr Martin Dietrich
President of EuroHealthNet
The EuroHealthNet cross-country analysis provides unique insights into the practice of integrated working and reforms, instigated by the European Semester and Recovery Facility. The analysis leads to a set of recommendations for the EU institutions and Member States on how they can improve health equity and wellbeing.
We call on EU Institutions and Member States to:
- Recognise the value of public health, as part of wider health system, and recovery and resilience reform strategies. This entails for example strengthening mental health promotion and primary and community care, improving the attractiveness of careers in the health and care sector, investing in prevention and improving digital health literacy, particularly in vulnerable groups.
- Facilitate and encourage better and more transparent communication among policy makers, professionals and public about how Recovery and Resilience Facility is being spent. Better transparency and communication are good democratic practices and can allow actors across Member States to learn from and inspire one another.
Develop an overarching Strategy for the European Union, that brings together all key policy objectives, and that could serve as a collective vision and guidance for the European Semester process and drive systemic change towards economies that generate wellbeing.
“The EuroHealthNet Partnership will continue to closely monitor and analyse the implementation of the national Recovery and Resilience Plans, the European Semester and subsequent contribution to achieving Economies of Wellbeing. Facilitating the international exchange of good practice and experience in this area can generate learning and build the competencies of policymakers, investors, and professionals for a fair and inclusive Europe
Director of EuroHealthNet