EUHealthGov at UACES 2022

EUhealthgov |

EUHealthGov is delighted to have been involved in this week’s annual conference of the University Association for Contemporary European Studies (UACES). We have hosted three panels this year – two taking place at the in-person conference, in Lille, and one at the virtual conference. 

On Monday afternoon, we gathered for a panel on EU governance of global health emergencies. Katrina Perehudoff (Amsterdam) introduced a new project exploring how the external impact of EU pharmaceuticals policy is accounted for in EU policy-making processes. Seeking to open up the black box of policy-making, the project questions the existence of a ‘global health-in-all-policies’ approach, looking at whether the inputs of EU policy actors consider the global ripple effects of EU medicines policy. A second presentation, by Pramiti Parwani (Amsterdam), picked up on some of these themes in the context of the specific impact of EU policy in LMICs. Focusing on vaccine policy, Pramiti’s work draws on models of EU external action to identify two strands of vaccine policy – one which is intergovernmental and diplomatic, and one which is more functional, sectorally-organised and technocratic in nature. The project goes on to examine the modes by which rules are diffused through these two strands, testing mechanisms of learning, socialisation, competition and emulation. Finally, Charlotte Godziewski (City University of London) presented work with Simon Rushton (Sheffield) on the securitisation of EU health policy in the aftermath of COVID-19. Charlotte and Simon’s project focuses on the Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) and explores the discourse surrounding its creation and operation. Noting features such as the HERA’s ‘preparedness’ and ‘crisis’ operating phases, the paper argues that several features of securitisation – such as the construction of a ‘peacetime/wartime’ framing – can be seen in the HERA case, and that this is made feasible, to some extent, by the constitutional asymmetry on which EU health policy is based. 

Our second panel focused on national and EU responses to health policy challenges. Chloé Bérut (PACTE Grenoble) presented recent work comparing the health strategies of France, Portugal and Switzerland. Chloé’s analysis explored the extent to which the health strategies include reference to health inequalities and how this reflects the particular community of actors involved in their drafting. Drawing on the concept of epistemic communities, Chloé showed how historical national research and input from the WHO shaped the emphasis on inequalities in the strategies of France and Portugal, respectively; meanwhile, in the Swiss case, the ‘politically feasible’ frames available to epistemic communities focused largely on individual responsibility. In the second presentation, Eleanor Brooks (Edinburgh) introduced a paper, co-authored with Kathrin Lauber (Edinburgh), that seeks to provide a conceptual framework for studying the EU’s better regulation agenda. As a meta-regulatory tool – a tool regulating the regulatory process – better regulation shapes the procedures of EU (health) policy-making by stipulating its guiding norms, principles and tools. The project draws on research from the field of the commercial determinants of health whilst addressing the tendency of this work to focus on agency at the expense of structure. 

Thursday’s virtual panel featured four more presentations from colleagues across the continent, all focusing on the impact of COVID-19 on health policy developments. Ida Musiałkowska (Poznań) presented her work on EU cohesion policy, and how new funds made available during the pandemic have been used – specifically in the case of Poland – to finance health. Ida also reflected on the relevance of the newer Recovery and Resilience Facility, and the unprecedented funding that it makes available, for health. Penelope Giosa (Portsmouth) gave a presentation about the temporary framework for state aid, which was introduced to allow governments to support national industries and sectors and was in place until the end of June 2022. Penny’s work shows how national governments made use of the framework, but largely missed the opportunity to target core, underlying weaknesses in national health systems. Marta Hoffman (Jagiellonian) spoke about the relationship between the EU and the World Health Organization (WHO) during the COVID-19 response. In addition to reforming its approach to financial support for the WHO, Marta’s work argues for the EU to mobilise its member states around the pandemic instrument and ongoing political cooperation with the WHO. Finally, Mechthild Roos (Augsburg) presented her work on how access to healthcare for refugees and asylum seekers has been politicised and instrumentalised in Germany, Italy, Sweden and the UK. Focusing on the impact of the 2015-17 ‘migration crisis’, the article highlights trends of deterrence, othering and polarisation, offering insight into what we might expect to see in the COVID context. 

Across the conference, we’ve enjoyed fruitful conversations about how health policy outputs are shaped by the EU’s organisational structures, discourses at national and EU level, legacies of national health systems and communities, and modes of international interaction. Moreover, it has been a pleasure to see how, in all our different areas of research, work has sought to capture and understand the impacts of COVID-19. Doubtlessly there will be much more to say as time passes, and these impacts become clearer. With thanks to all of our presenters, chairs, discussants and audience participants, as well as to UACES for the invitation and financial support. Here’s looking forward to #UACES2023!