EU Public Affairs in 2019: the challenge of keeping endocrinology on the EU political agenda

In the midst of Brexit, the European Parliament elections and continuous tensions between the EU and some of its Member States, ESE has continued its engagement at the EU level into 2019. It is a continuous challenge for ESE and other health stakeholders to prevent these larger debates pushing health and research down, or even off the EU political agenda. The European Commission also seems to use these turbulent times to paddle back on its commitments to health and research.

One example is in the area of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) where ESE and partner organisations like the Endocrine Society and EDC Free Europe, have worked together to push the European Commission to adopt concrete measures to address the threat these chemicals pose for human and animal health. A key breakthrough was the recent last-minute adoption of a European Parliament resolution on 18 April during its last plenary sitting. The resolution actively supported by ESE called upon the European Commission to “swiftly take all necessary actions to ensure a high level of protection of human health and the environment against EDCs”.

Despite the immense political pressure from the European Parliament and civic society, the European Commission announced on the 7 June to push back the so called “fitness check”, to assess if the regulations for pesticides meet the needs of citizens, businesses and public”, until the end of 2019.

The hopes of the NGO community are now with the Member States that by using the Council Conclusions can direct the European Commission to live up to their commitment and immediately implement the necessary legislative and policy measures, many of them outlined in a statement from November 2018 by the ESE EDC Working Group.
Other areas in the field of endocrinology have been addressed in the first half of 2019. Prof Jérôme Bertherat helped the public affairs team draft a factsheet on this category of illnesses and the need for research in this area that was passed on to Members of the European Parliament closely involved in the debate for the next European Research Framework Programme “Horizon Europe”. In parallel, a mini social media campaign was implemented around World Rare Disease Day on the 28 February.

More recently, ESE supported celebrated World Thyroid Day on the 25 May and supported the European Thyroid Association’s call for action “to increase awareness of thyroid disease and to urge people to remain vigilant in recognizing symptoms and initiating treatment”.

Looking forward, the larger debates at the EU level in 2019 will be around the division of the key posts in Brussels, most prominently the election of the new European Commission President and a new President for the European Council. It will be interesting to follow the political developments within an ever more divisive European Parliament with a strong voice for the eurosceptic parties. Their first meeting on the 2 July guarantees early fireworks as they will vote on the new European Commission President while also dividing key internal posts.

It will be a challenge for ESE in 2019 to remain vigilant in this turbulent Brussels arena and together with its affiliated societies and external partner organisations ensure that endocrinology receives the attention it deserves. Read the ESE statement on the European Union framework on endocrine disruptors.

Read the the Council of the European Union Conclusions on EDCs adopted on Wednesday 26 June 2019.

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