Health Brief: European Parliament’s social health club

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A new analysis by VoteWatch Europe and the consultancy BCW Brussels has shown who the hottest European lawmakers in town are when it comes to health policy.

Let’s admit it. When we were teenagers, most of us wanted to be part of the popular group. And the European Parliament is just like high school: once elected, every MEP wants to be one of the cool kids.

This new research measures popularity among MEPs through two dimensions: the ability to change legislation and win votes in the hemicycle (aka political influence) and the ability to reach people (aka social influence).

Again, like in high school, hanging out with the right people can help lawmakers come out on the top of the social and political charts.

Non-attached members of the Parliament or MEPs enrolled in pariah groups, like the far-right, run the risk of standing on the sidelines of any debates as they’re not assigned with crucial dossiers in parliamentary work.

According to the analysis, the socialist group is the most politically influential in the health social club – growing in influence since 2020 – while the Greens excel when it comes to social credit.

The last ingredient in the magic recipe of the most popular MEPs is a solid amount of technical expertise, the key to really influencing the legislative process.

It is no coincidence that the top four places in the overall influence ranking are occupied by qualified medical doctors, showing how important specific knowledge is when it comes to shaping Europe’s health policies.

Also, the research showed that some parliamentary groups, such as the socialists, the Christian-democrat and the liberals have a higher share of medical doctors or health professionals in their ranks compared to the Greens, the Left group and the conservatives.

Bagging the top spot of the overall ranking is Peter Liese, the German MEP who was a true health star during the COVID crisis and also health spokesperson for the European People’s Party (EPP), the biggest political group in the Parliament.

Basically every EU reporter – and not only the ones covering health – have attended at least once one of his very frequent press briefings in the midst of the vaccine race – like when he encouraged the Commission to include the Russian vaccine Sputnik in its vaccine portfolio.

While Liese took advantage of this higher media exposure during the pandemic, paediatrician and former Polish health minister Bartosz Arłukowicz reached third place in this particular chart for chairing the important Parliament’s special committee on beating cancer (BECA).

One pleasant outcome of the study is that the EU health policymaking is a woman’s, woman’s world.

It found that female MEPs have marginally more political and significantly more social influence than their male peers in health policy.

The best examples in this sense are the Portuguese socialist Sara Cerdas and the French liberal Véronique Trillet-Lenoir – who respectively ended up second and fourth in the overall score – both of which have a leading role on key policy initiatives such as tackling cross-border threats to health.

Sara Cerdas, who is also a medical doctor, ranked first for political influence, meaning that she has got her hands on basically all the health dossiers that count.

On the other hand, Trillet-Lenoir – who was interviewed by EURACTIV in Lyon last week – received a perfect 100% in the social influence score, meaning she has a huge potential in shifting the public conversation on health.

The president of the Parliament’s health committee, the liberal Pascal Canfin, followed in fifth place, followed by other very active MEPs such as the Italian socialist Alessandra Moretti, the Romanian liberal Nicolae Ștefănuță and the Spanish centre-right MEP Dolors Montserrat.

It is no surprise that they all sat in the Parliament’s health committee (ENVI).

It is curious though that French lawmakers are leading the social presence chart while they rank in the last place for political influence, which is dominated by Spanish MEPs.


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Nineteen European health organisations have asked that HERA be more transparent, prioritise the public interest, and involve Parliament more in the decision-making process, in a joint letter published on Wednesday (3 November).

On Tuesday (9 November) the Council gave its final go-ahead for the adoption of a regulation on health technology assessment (HTA). The new rules foresee that member states cooperate to conduct joint clinical assessments and joint scientific consultations. They will also join forces when it comes to the identification of emerging health technologies. The regulation still needs to be adopted by the European Parliament before it will be published in the EU Official Journal. It will start to apply three years after its entry into force.

In 2020, the Petitions Committee received a record number of petitions, with health and fundamental rights the most common topics in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, was announced on Tuesday (9 November).

The European Parliament’s President David Sassoli has been taken out of the parliamentary game for more than two months by complication after pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria. But what is it and how has the EU improved legislation to tackle the spread of the pneumonia-causing bacteria?


Cervical cancer rates are 87% lower in women vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV) when they were between 12-13, a new study published on 4 November in The Lancet confirmed.


Disparities in the access to cancer treatment persist across the EU with differences in survival up to 25% for the same disease and at the same stage of illness between different member states, European lawmakers have warned.


Global COVID-19 cases surpassed 250 million on Monday (8 November) as some countries in eastern Europe experience record outbreaks, even as the Delta variant surge eases and many countries resume trade and tourism.

Britain on Thursday (4 November) became the first country in the world to approve a potentially game-changing COVID-19 antiviral pill jointly developed by US-based Merck & Co Inc and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, in a boost to the fight against the pandemic.

On 3 November the World Health Organization (WHO) issued an emergency use listing (EUL) for COVAXIN®, developed by Bharat Biotech, adding to a portfolio of vaccines validated by WHO for the prevention of COVID-19 caused by SARS-CoV-2.


On Saturday (November 6), health professionals and climate experts from around the world called for urgent action to tackle the growing climate-related health crisis, during the Global Conference on Health and Climate Change in Glasgow alongside the COP26 UN climate change conference.

Jeni Miller, Executive Director of the Global Climate and Health Alliance said that “political leaders must prioritise health and social equity, emission reduction and impact mitigation over politics, profit and unproven technological fixes”.

On Tuesday (9 November) a group of 47 countries committed to developing climate-resilient and low-carbon health systems at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26), in response to growing evidence of the impact of climate change on people’s health. Forty-two of these countries have also committed to transforming their health systems to be more sustainable and low-carbon. 


Bulgarian MP candidate caught in fake green pass scheme. According to an investigation conducted by Nova TV, a Bulgarian MP candidate from the nationalist NFSB party has been involved in a scheme issuing vaccination certificates to unvaccinated people. (Krassen Nikolov |


Latvia allows businesses to fire the unvaccinated. The Latvian parliament on Thursday allowed businesses to fire workers who refuse to either get a COVID-19 vaccine or transfer to remote work, as the country battles one of the worst COVID-19 waves in the EU. ( with Reuters)


Belgian COVID-19 hospitalisations rise back to pre-lockdown level. Belgium on Thursday (4 November) reported a jump in COVID-19 infections and hospitalisations rose back to levels that had forced a lockdown in October 2020, as the United States advised against travelling to the host of EU and NATO headquarters. ( with Reuters)


The city of Vienna will restrict access to cultural events and hairdressers, bars, and clubs to people who are either vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 by the end of the week – effectively banning unvaccinated from participating in Vienna’s social and cultural life. Moreover, testing requirement even for vaccinated people is also on the table.  (Oliver Noyan |


Finance minister: COVID-19 pandemic has cost Croatia more than €5.3 billion. The total cost of combating the COVID-19 pandemic has exceeded 40 billion kuna (€5.3 billion) from the state budget, Finance Minister Zdravko Marić told the Sabor (parliament).

The majority of costs relate to job-keeping measures, directly or indirectly, then taxes, contributions, and everything the state took upon itself said Marić presenting this year’s budget revision. (Željko Trkanjec |


Greek PM: No mandatory vaccines, no lockdown. In an interview with Greek TV channel MEGA on Wednesday (3 November), Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis made it clear that no new lockdown will be imposed in the country due to the increase in COVID-19 cases. (Mattahaios Tsimitakis |


Romania’s schools to reopen, some will begin in-person classes. Schools in Romania will reopen Monday after students took a forced two-week vacation due to the pandemic. However, in-person classes will only start for students attending schools where at least 60% of the teachers are vaccinated. 

The COVID-19 situation in Romania is still challenging, with almost no free beds in intensive care units and hundreds of deaths reported each day. 

The Ministry of Education had suspended courses for two weeks hoping that the reduced circulation would improve the pandemic situation. Schools restart on Monday, but only two-thirds are set to return to the classroom. (Bogdan Neagu |


Spanish health minister: COVID-19 pandemic ‘stable’. The COVID-19 pandemic is “stable” in Spain, health minister, Carolina Darias told a press conference in Madrid on Thursday (4 November), noting that the situation in the rest of the EU is substantially worse than in Spain, EURACTIV’s partner EFE reported.  (Fernando Heller |


Death of pregnant woman sparks new protests over abortion law. Protests were held across the country on All Saints’ Day Monday (1 November) following the death of a 30-year-old woman who died in a hospital in Pszczyna while 22 weeks pregnant. Doctors were told to hold off on removing the foetus until the baby’s heart stopped beating, but the woman died of septic shock. (Martyna Kompała |


Mask up, MPs told. MPs have been told they must wear face masks in Parliament after a recent spike in COVID-19 cases there. Last week, face mask-wearing was made compulsory for all other workers in the Parliament buildings. (Benjamin Fox |


Italian government considers extending state of emergency into the first half of 2022. In an interview on national TV Rai3, Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza opened up the possibility of extending the current state of emergency that was first introduced on 31 January 2020 and is currently set to expire on 31 December. By  (Viola Stefanello |

15 November | ECL Annual Conference 2021 ‘ Challenges and Opportunities in Cancer Control in Europe, event organised by the European Cancer League

18 November | European Parliament’s Health Committee (ENVI)


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