News from the Capitals #41

by RPP colleagues

 

Europe is a colourful continent in terms of policies and outcomes. It is essential to stay updated on how these policies may impact your work to build better regulatory frameworks, enhance your message and enhance communication with stakeholders. Here you can find a summary of the major European political updates of this week.

 

France

This week in France, the debate on the end of life has resurfaced. Indeed, the president Emmanuel Macron invited the actress and activist of the right to health for all, Line Renaud, to the Elysée. She was decorated with the "Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor". During this event at the Elysée Palace, the activist raised the subject of euthanasia. She has been a fervent defender of the right to die freely for several years. When leaving the premises, she expressed her enthusiasm about having convinced the President to reform this issue.

Emmanuel Macron spoke later, announcing that he really wanted to "move forward on euthanasia". Indeed, during his first term in office, the Parliament had tabled a bill on euthanasia, but the project had been blocked by four conservative deputies who had tabled a multitude of amendments. At the same time, the National Ethics Committee said it was open to debate. This question will be discussed at the National Council of Refoundation, which the President wanted during his election campaign last April. The President announced the launch of a broad consultation of civil society to reform the right to euthanasia.

The political environment is rather in favor of the right to the end of life. In a recent poll 96% of French people have a positive opinion on euthanasia. The Government and the new Parliament are also in favor. However, the Order of General Practitioners has experienced some concerns on the subject. The debate on euthanasia is a long fight for the militants. Moreover, the death of the famous director Jean-Luc Godard in Switzerland by euthanasia has not failed to revive the debate. A possible reform on the issue should arrive during 2023.

Regarding the social security bill, the government has strengthened its position and is more determined than ever to pass its pension reform by amendments in the social security budget this fall.  The deputies of the various oppositions as well as the unions have warned the Government of systematic blockages in case of a forced passage. the Government and the majority in the Parliament are therefore expecting lively debates at the end of the month.


UK

Liz Truss’ appointment as the new prime minister of the UK and Northern Ireland has been accompanied by a surprising lack of specificity on policy direction. So far Truss, and her largely new cabinet, appears to be taking a free-market low-regulation approach. She has promised large cuts to business tax rates, the building of new roads, and, as of tomorrow, a lifting of the ban on fracking. To tackle the cost of living/energy crisis, she has also pledged to freeze energy bills at the current rate over the next year, costing the UK taxpayer £150 billion. It will be seen whether this has a tangible benefit to ordinary people’s ability to pay for basic necessities.

In health, Theresa Coffey has been appointed as the new secretary of state. Health has been recognized as a major priority of the new government and Coffey promises to focus on ambulances, backlogs, care, and dentistry. These areas are in desperate need of funding and strategic planning as waiting lists continue to grow and the UK still struggles to recover from the Covid-19. It is also hoped that the Department for Health and Social Care will carry on driving the initiatives that have already begun, especially related to workforce and innovation. Without this, development and recovery in the health service could be severely stunted.


Germany

At the Employer’s Day Employer President Rainer Dulger considered a recession likely in view of the gas crisis and high inflation. The German economy is struggling with a dramatic economic situation, immensely high energy prices and serious supply bottlenecks for raw materials, intermediate products and other goods. Therefore, companies need the state's help, which must be targeted and fast. Employees and companies must be relieved so that energy remains affordable. Dulger said that employers and trade unions alone cannot solve the problems caused by rapidly rising inflation. The Employer President demands that the state focus on tackling the causes and not on alleviating the symptoms.

To support more companies in this crisis Chancellor Olaf Scholz has promised an extension of aid measures to support them with the high energy prices. He also encouraged companies to make special payments to their employees due to the high energy prices.  Such additional payments would be exempt from taxes and social security contributions up to an amount of 3000 euros. However, lots of companies cannot afford additional payments. To find solutions to the questions of who should bear the costs of inflation and the fight against the crisis, Scholz has invited representatives of the employers and the trade unions to the Chancellery.

In addition, Federal Economics Minister Robert Habeck wants energy-intensive small and medium-sized enterprises, and especially the skilled trades, to receive new subsidies for their gas and electricity costs as soon as possible. Possibly the subsidies could also be granted retroactively from September. Companies from all sectors of the economy that are severely affected by rising energy costs should be able to receive subsidies more easily. The program supports companies that cannot pass on sharply increased energy costs to their customers due to international competition.

Tomorrow, the Bundesrat will discuss the SHI Financial Stabilisation Act, which is intended to balance the expected financial deficit of the statutory health insurance funds of 17 billion euros next year. In the run-up, there had been massive criticism from all sides of the health sector. It remains to be seen whether there will be major adjustments.


Italy

As the vote approaches, the electoral campaign becomes more bitter, the knots come to a head and Giorgia Meloni, Leader of Brother of Italy, after artificially aligning with European instances and western standards returns on the barricades proclaiming, during the rally held last Sunday in Milan: "the godsend it's over", accusing past Italian governments for having done too little to safeguard Italian interests in Europe. Another topic that suddenly enter during the last few days of the election campaign is that concerning the U.S declassified report that discovered that Russia foreign agencies have spent more than 300 million to directly fund political parties in more than 24 countries across Europe. The report doesn’t make clear yet what are the names of the parties and politicians that may be involved, but even if not clear yet – the league has already got its hands on them, declaring that it will not accept any speculation on their names and if someone will accuse them of accepting money from the Russians without bringing tangible evidence, they will be ready to file a libel report.

On the left side different deputies have already asked COPASIR - Parliamentary Committee for the Security of the Republic, to investigate the files and information received from the Italian Government from the US one and, if present, to make public the names of the parties and politicians involved. Others such as Enrico Borghi (Democratic Party), have asked the parties running the elections to swear on the Constitution that they did not receive illegitimate funding from enemy foreign powers. This matter is only at the beginning and will only swell in the next few days, the atmosphere ten days from the elections is getting white-hot, and this report could become a heavy issue for the re-right coalition - especially if one of the parties' parts of the coalition will appear among those who received this shadow funds.

On 13 September the Senate passed the decree for the Aid Bis. The text is now passed to the Chamber for final approval. The Decree contains important rules on the regional spending limits for medical devices; rules on the distribution between the regions of the financial resources of the National Health Fund. Consequentially, the decree creates a fund of 200 million for the Italian participation to two multilateral health initiatives, mainly concerning, the prevention, preparation and response to pandemics and the purchase of medical devices and vaccines in medium and low-income countries. Lastly, an extension of the psychologist bonus is expected, which will pay a total of 25 million euros in reimbursements.

The two-decree n.137 and n.138 regarding the adaptation of the national regulatory framework on medical devices to the EU regulations have been published in the Official Gazette and it is now being activated. The two legislative decrees have been published and they adapt the provisions of Regulations (EU) 2017/745 and 2017/746 for all parties involved (notified bodies, economic operators and health professionals). The national decrees reflect the progressive application of European regulations and provide for the possibility, in some cases the burden, on the part of the Ministry of Health to define requirements, criteria and procedures to regulate specific medical areas.


Spain

In Spain, the news of the deceased Queen Elizabeth has stormed our newspapers and newscasts. Not only she was a queen for the British, but also, one of the last symbols of the post second world war international order. Now, there is no doubt, that we will enter a new era where we will have to rewrite the rules of the future.

Like how to face the new challenges of today, such as an undermined democracy, Global warming, the energy crisis, and international conflict and violence. That is why, and thanks to the recent remarks of Ursula von der Leyen on Europe’s measures to tackle the energy crises (33% Tax on big energy companies and national government savings for more than 5% in pick hours) … businesses and people are bracing for the effects this could have over the national economy.

This is also not helping ease the tension in our national political landscape. As the two main political parties (PP and PSOE) keep increasing their differences and diluting any type of cordial dialogue that may occur to pass functional legislation. This could be explained by the fact that we are approaching general elections in 2023, and they have… let’s say it, started their campaigns.

Now the general debate is centered on how to deal with the shock plan for the increase in prices and the cost of living/energy. But any measures that could be imposed are generally dismissed by the crispation of the government. That still has not solved the issue of our main judicial body.

Very unsettling times, however, let us not forget the bigger picture. We keep on moving, renovating, and building towards sustainable development and well-being. Such as how the government in Spain and different autonomous communities have put in place just this week different programs, resources and legislation that can help deal with the wave of youth mental health problems and suicide, the intrusiveness of aesthetic medicine, or evaluate how technology will affect our health.

One example of this is how The Council of Ministers has approved this Tuesday the start of the procedure to establish the physical headquarters of the future Spanish Agency for the Supervision of Artificial Intelligence (AESIA). It is a body that will comply with the European Union's demand that the Member States have an entity to supervise in this area and that will benefit different fields. Among them, that of health.


Sweden

It's official: the right-wing populist party Sweden Democrats won the second most votes in Sunday's parliamentary elections. Former Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson (Social Democratic Party) conceded defeat on Wednesday evening. The Social Democrats remain the strongest parliamentary group with 30 per cent but would not have a majority even with the votes of the Greens, the Left Party and the Centre Party.

The opposing camp, consisting of the Sweden Democrats, the Moderates, the Christian Democrats and the Liberals, would now have a majority, albeit a very narrow one. Nevertheless, it is rather unlikely that the leader of the Sweden Democrats, Jimmie Åkesson, will become prime minister. It is more likely that Ulf Kristersson, the leader of the Moderates, whose party has already announced that it is willing to work with the right-wing party, will try to form a coalition with the Christian Democrats. This coalition would not have a majority but would be supported by the Liberals and Sweden Democrats. Governing in a minority government is nothing unusual in Sweden. Nevertheless, forming a government will not be easy. Now that the Sweden Democrats have become the second strongest force, they want to see their new strength translated into major concessions. On Wednesday evening, Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Åkesson wrote on Facebook that it was now "time to put Sweden first". However, especially the liberals are still very skeptical about the Sweden Democrats, whose founding members mostly come from the old and neo-Nazi scene. Points of conflict are, for example, the Sweden Democrats demands on migration and foreigners' policy: they demand that Sweden be given the most restrictive asylum law in the European Union. All in all, the party is not very EU-friendly, but the Moderates and Liberals are.


Belgium

The Doel 3 nuclear reactor is set to close on 23 September. Several stakeholders have recently validated the plan to shut down the Doel 3 nuclear reactor. Some operations, such as the process of chemical decontamination, are irreversible and inhibit any potential restart in the future, which sparked heated debates in policymaking and in the press.

On 12 September, Belgium began the biggest trial in its history: 9 terrorists responsible for the attacks in Paris in 2015 and in Brussels in 2016 will answer to 960 plaintiffs.

On 12 September, Belgium began a new vaccination campaign ahead of autumn and winter. The campaign will cover people who are particularly at risk and will use new bivalent vaccines.


Poland

On 16 September, Poland will begin a new vaccination campaign targeted at people who have already received at least three doses and at halting the propagation of Omicron. Therefore, the campaign will essentially constitute a second booster dose.

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