Magazine ed*
ed* Nr. 01/2024

Outlook on the new parliamentary term


ed* Nr. 01/2024 – Chapter 9

After the last five years have been characterised by a particularly strong European social and health policy, the question arises as to how important these issues will be in the coming years.

EPP – European People's Party (Europäische Volkspartei)

We reject a sprawling EU social bureaucracy.

The EPSR will certainly remain the EU’s social compass. The conference in La Hulpe reconfirmed this. However, this does not rule out the possibility of social policy projects such as combating labour shortage or fighting poverty being relegated to the sidelines. After all, the mood in the Council changes slightly with every change of government in a Member State. And there are new heads in the EU Parliament. The Social Democrats, the Greens and the Left want to continue to work towards strengthening Europe’s social dimension. The PES and the Left even want to include a protocol on social progress in the EU treaties. There were already discussions about this during the negotiations on the Treaty of Lisbon. However, the Christian Democrats insist on the competence of the Member States for social policy. Setting standards for social benefits at EU level is rejected, as is a resulting “EU social bureaucracy”. For the Liberals, too, social issues play only a subordinate role.

PES – The Party of European Socialists (Sozialdemokratische Partei Europas)

Social rights must take precedence over economic interests, reinforcing the social dimension of the European Union.

It is safe to say that the overarching themes of the previous legislative period – green and digital transformation and just transition – will remain. However, the specific objectives or the pace of implementation may change. The Green Deal was the core political project of EU Commission President von der Leyen’s first term in office. However, it enjoys little sympathy within her own party family. Only the centre-left parties continue to push for a socially equitable green transition. 

In terms of healthcare policy, however, things will certainly continue to be intense. Particularly in the areas of medicinal products and medical devices that are relevant to the single market. It is likely to be more difficult for initiatives that prioritise consumer and patient rights over economic interests. Trends that can already be observed today, such as in the case of tobacco legislation or the labelling of alcoholic beverages, will probably continue. There is little to suggest that the 10th parliamentary term will promote the further expansion of the European Health Union – neither in terms of healthcare policy nor in terms of the reorganisation of the European distribution of responsibilities. The group of opponents in the Council and the EU Parliament is too large, while the group of those who want Europe to take the lead is too small.

The EU will continue to put its heart and soul into social policymaking in the new legislative period. The Spanish and Belgian Council Presidencies have done a good job preparing for this. Occupational health and safety legislation is firmly established in Europe. The EU mechanism for the protection of workers’ health guarantees continuous further development, regardless of individual legislative periods.

Of particular interest will be whether the paradigm shift in fiscal policy is successful and whether social investments can be regarded as relevant to growth and therefore to the budget in future. The digitalisation of social security and public administrations will also challenge the DSV over the coming years. However, at the end of the 9th legislative period, there is not much to suggest that there will be much commitment in terms of social policy beyond the issues that have been set already.