EU Commission ‘afraid of reactions to liberalisation of health care’

14 January 2008

EU Commission ‘afraid of reactions to liberalisation of health care’

The European Commission was supposed to publish its proposals for further liberalisation of health care at the end of last year, but no trace of this has yet been seen. "They're afraid of the reactions and of the consequences as long as the new reform treaty remains to be ratified by all member states," says SP Euro-MP Kartika Liotard. A member of the European Parliament's Public Health Committee, Liotard, who is in Strasbourg for the parliamentary plenary, is calling on the Commission to show greater openness.

Kartika Liotard“EU member state citizens are not expecting still more liberalisation, and certainly not in health care," Liotard says. "The Commission is afraid that resistance to this will throw a spanner in the works when it comes to ratification of the reform treaty. The public would then for once find out the full extent of the EU plans, and perhaps they would also become more critical of the new 'constitution'. I find the postponement of these controversial proposals simply scandalous and evidence of a lack of political courage.".

In 2005 health care was made an exception to the hugely controversial services directive, which liberalised almost all service sectors. “The liberalisation proposals for health care services were clearly at that time a bridge too far," Liotard notes. "My report for the Public Health Committee, and the proposed amendments it contained, won approval, resulting in the exemption of health care from the directive's extreme liberalisation proposals. Now the Commission wants to reverse this, but is terrified, and rightly so, of the enormous resistance this will provoke."

Heavy political pressure from the Commission has already ensured that after Ireland no other member state will hold a referendum on the reform treaty. “But evidently there is still disquiet and a feeling that until the treaty is finally ratified any proposals which might prove controversial should remain out of sight. This is typical of this Europe: keep everyone sweet until the ink is dry on all of the signatures and then get on with far-reaching measures which have long been planned."

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