Although not initially among the European Commission’s policy priorities under Ursula von der Leyen, the Covid-19 pandemic has catapulted healthcare to the top of EU’s policy agenda. While the EU has limited competence in public health policy, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) with a medical background or experience in health policy have become valuable assets as Europe continues to grapple with the pandemic.

The analysis uses data and insights from the one-year period up to August 2020. There have since been some changes in European parliamentary seats and leadership positions.

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OVERALL INFLUENCE
POLITICAL INFLUENCE
SOCIAL INFLUENCE
The five MEPs with most influence on health policy include four medical doctors and one former health minister. MEPs with the most political clout are more likely to have a medical background or experience in national health ministries, whilst the most socially influential MEPs generally have less experience in health policy but are using social platforms to build support for their ideas.

INFLUENCE BY COUNTRY

Small member states are punching above their weight when shaping health policy in the European Parliament, with Malta, Ireland and Belgium proportionally most influential.

Politically, the French and the Germans are underperforming despite the strength of their respective national health sectors.

On the social dimension, MEPs from western and northern EU countries outperform their eastern counterparts. This is perhaps not surprising given that Twitter is less widely used among MEPs representing the eastern member states.

OVERALL

POLITICAL

SOCIAL

INFLUENCE BY POLITICAL GROUP

The dynamics of influence within the political groups change considerably when we compare political and social influence in the area of health.

Politically, members of the S&D and EPP – the two biggest groups in the European Parliament – dominate the upper rankings. S&D, EPP, and Renew Europe have a higher share of doctors and health professionals in their ranks compared to the Greens/EFA, GUE/NGL, and ECR. This seems to indicate that health professionals tend to favour moderate and centrist approaches.

Socially, members of the Greens/EFA wield most influence on average, followed by members of GUE/NGL. This is a recurring pattern across policy indexes, with left-leaning parties tending to be more vocal and influential on social platforms compared to their centrist and right-leaning counterparts.

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