Newsletter 216 - Country Specific Recommendations

Health-EU Newsletter 216 - Focus

European Semester: Commission proposes health recommendations to 12 EU countries

On 23 May 2018, the Commission presented the 2018 country-specific recommendations as part of the European Semester Spring Package, setting out its economic policy guidance for Member States for the next 12 to 18 months. Director General of the Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety Xavier Prats Monné discusses the implications for the health sector.

Could you explain what the European Semester is, to provide some background?

The European Semester is a cycle of economic, fiscal and social policy coordination within the EU. It is part of the EU's economic governance framework and aims to help EU countries to avoid excessive government debt, prevent macroeconomic imbalances, support structural reforms and social policies and promote jobs, growth and investment.

To help achieve this, the Commission conducts a detailed analysis of each country's plans for budget, macroeconomic and structural reforms in various sectors and then provides EU governments with country-specific recommendations for the next 12-18 months, while monitoring their progress. Given the importance of health expenditure -15% of total public expenditure- as a factor of economic prosperity and social cohesion, health systems issues have for long now been in the scope of the Semester.

What are the health-related recommendations for 2018?

Country-specific recommendations related to health systems were addressed to twelve EU countries. These range from working to ensure their health systems are sustainable to strengthening primary care and reducing high out-of-pocket fees faced by EU citizens. Links to the recommendations and to more information about the European Semester are provided in this newsletter, but I'd like to stress that it isn't the Commission's intention to single out countries as lacking in one way or another. It is our goal to help them identify priorities and provide support to the Member States to conduct structural reforms to make national health systems more effective, accessible and resilient. Our analysis and recommendations are based on a thorough assessment of the national situation and in particular on the knowledge brokering provided by the State of Health in the EU initiative. (See below for more information).

Given the magnitude and complexity of the challenges in this area change takes several years to take shape and deliver results. The recommendations are thus a strong encouragement to sustain the effort.

What happens now that the Commission has made its proposals?

The proposals for country-specific recommendations will now be discussed in the Council, where EU countries have until early July to vote on their final adoption. If approved, the implementation of these recommendations will be monitored and reported on in the Commission's country reports, which should be ready in February/March 2019, and in the Members States own National Reform Programmes in April 2019. New recommendations could then be proposed by the Commission around May 2019. It's a continuing process as we strive for continual improvements in all areas, for the benefit of EU citizens. It's also worth pointing out that various EU financial instruments are at Member State's disposal to accompany the implementation of the recommendations.