A controversial directive on cross-border healthcare is expected to pass through the European Parliament at the end of this month, despite continued divisions between political groups and disagreement among member states.
The proposals was adopted yesterday (21 March) by the Parliament’s environment, public health and food safety committee (ENVI) without the support of the Socialist group or the Greens. It will be submitted to the full house for a vote on 21-24 April.
The Socialists, led by shadow rapporteur Dagmar Roth-Behrendt, called a hastily-convened five-minute recess and decided to abstain from the final vote, despite being broadly favourable to the proposal.
The last-minute withdrawal of support arose amid concerns that the report did not underline the potential impact of the directive on the health sector. Socialists preferred to abstain rather than vote against the plan, because the group is broadly in favour of the report, tabled by UK Conservative MEP John Bowis (EPP-ED).
The PES is understood to have preferred an amendment on the prior authorisation of treatment tabled by the Parliament’s employment committee, which would have given more powers to member states.
The Socialists are expected to spend the coming weeks attempting to drum up support for their amendments, and would be willing to vote in favour of the report at plenary if the changes can be incorporated.
Green MEPs are likely to continue to oppose the plan, which they say treats healthcare as a service to be freely traded across Europe.
The ALDE and EPP blocs both favour the report, meaning it is likely to pass through plenary regardless of how much support can be garnered from the left.
However, divisions remain at Council level, where national health ministers are concerned that the move could lead to an erosion of sovereignty and could play havoc with how health services are planned, funded and delivered across Europe.