European citizens voted in May 2014 to renew the European Parliament. 551 Members (MEP) joined on the 1st of July, to represent the 28 Member States of the European Union. How does the EP function? Where do health matters fall in this organisation? A recap.
MEPs decided on which political group they wished to sit, as they are not organised by nationality, but by political affiliation. There are currently 7 political groups in the European Parliament. The biggest groups are the European People’s Party (EPP- christian democrats) and the Progressive Alliance of Social Democrats (S&D), followed by the Group of Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE). Each group appointed its coordinators, a bureau and a secretariat. Some Members do not belong to any political group and are known as non-attached Members.
MEPs are all part of standing committees to do the preparatory work for Parliament’s plenary sittings.
There are 20 parliamentary committees. A committee consists of between 24 and 76 MEPs, and has a chair, a bureau and a secretariat
The political make-up of the committees reflects that of the plenary assembly. The parliamentary committees meet once or twice a month in Brussels; their debates are held in public.
The committees draw up, amend and adopt legislative proposals and own-initiative reports; they consider Commission and Council proposals and, where necessary, draw up reports to be presented to the plenary assembly.
Parliament can also set up sub-committees and special temporary committees to deal with specific issues, and is empowered to create formal committees of inquiry under its supervisory remit to investigate allegations of maladmistration of EU law.
The committee chairs coordinate the work of the committees in the Conference of Committee Chairs.
The Health and Environment (ENVI) committee is the second biggest committee, with 69 Members. It deals with human and veterinary health as well as subject related to the environment. However matters related to care, social, professional training and education, medicines or equity may be primarly debated, drafted and taken forward by other Committees, who will involve ENVI only when the first stages of the policy developments have taken place.
These are :
- IMCO: internal market and consumer protection
- ITRE, industry, research and industry
- EMPL: employment and social affairs
- INTA: international trade (it deals in particular with agreements with the USA, on opening market accesss, which could impact EU policies on tobacco control).