Vulcan Insight

European Parliament sets up subcommittee on Public Health 

20 January 2023

On Wednesday, 18 January, the European Parliament’s Conference of Presidents, the institution’s political body responsible for decisions on the responsibilities and membership of committees and delegations, agreed to establish a subcommittee on Public Health. The Conference of Presidents consists of the President of the European Parliament and the political group chairs and is tasked with the organisation of Parliament’s work and legislative planning. The proposed subcommittee would be under the responsibility of the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI).

Parliamentary Subcommittees are set up in order to deal with specific issues. Their members are chosen from among the members of the parent committee. Other examples of European Parliament Subcommittees are the Committee on Tax Matters, under the Committee of Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Human Rights Subcommittee, under the Committee on Foreign Affairs. The Subcommittee on Public Health will not have any legislative power but will report on its work to the ENVI committee, which will have the legislative power as a parent Committee.

The creation of the Subcommittee will have to be confirmed by a plenary vote which is planned to take place on 2 February 2023. Before this can happen, the leaders of the political groups will have to decide on the Subcommittee’s mandate.

Currently, the ENVI Committee has a Working Group on Public Health, in which MEPs discuss public health issues. The creation of a Subcommittee on Public Health reflects the growing importance of the EU in the domain of health, especially considering the crucial role it played in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, political groups have previously expressed that the scope of policy domains covered by the ENVI Committee, which include further subjects such as food safety, climate change, waste management, recycling, and chemicals is too big for one Committee. This is especially the case, given the growing significance of public health as a policy area.

MEP Pascal Canfin (FR, RE), who is chair of the ENVI committee stated, “This committee will help step up the work on public health issues following the COVID-19 crisis and the lessons we have learnt since then.” MEP Manfred Weber (DE, EPP), Chair of the EPP Group noted the following: “We have repeatedly and consistently called for the creation of a European Health Union that brings true added value to EU citizens and we believe the new sub-committee will help us get a step closer to this achievement. It is great news that we finally got an agreement, despite Green opposition”. 

The new subcommittee is expected to give a greater importance to health topics in the European Parliament. The legislative power, however, will remain with the ENVI Committee.