News 14 November 2022

The EU Commission 2023 work program: towards a healthier world?

On 18 October 2022, the EU Commission released its work program for the year ahead. Every year, the Commission adopts its annual work program setting out the list of the most important actions it will take in the year ahead. On the basis of the Commission Work Program, the Commission, the European Parliament and the Council establish a Joint Declaration on the EU’s legislative priorities, to take swift action. In this article, we review the program on the scope of health, agriculture and food.

Taking action

The past year has been marked by incredible world challenges. The 2023 EU Commission Work program highlights the need for “continued fast reactions to address challenges”, with special attention paid to the consequences of the war in Ukraine. Additional funds for the rehabilitation of Ukrainian schools, facilitate their access to the single market and support its recovery.

If new obstacles are arising, the Commission aims at pursuing its efforts in implementing the EU Green Deal”: “Swift agreement on the Fit for 55 packages is key”.

Source: EU Commission, October 2022

The new work program also highlights the upcoming European Year of Skills, which aims at supporting a transformation of the job market with a new quality framework for traineeships and an updated EU learning mobility framework.

As the agency for a Healthy World, we wanted to dive in particular into the agricultural, food and health policies of this work program.

Food security & food quality

According to an information note published by the FAO in June 2022, the impact of the Ukrainian war on the global agrifood supply chains. And for European Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski, the budget of the Common Agricultural Policy is “too small” to face future crises.

The surprising missing element in the program is the “proposal for a revision of the regulation on Food information to consumers”, also known as nutritional label or the adoption of a mandatory equivalent to the NutriScore at the European level. The adoption of the proposal is scheduled for the end of this year but could be delayed to 2023. The debates have been especially heated on the topics, with an opposing faction led by Italy. In case of a delay in the adoption proposal, the full legislative journey could be impacted, leading the dossier to be re-distributed to a new European Parliament.

The next election cycle is scheduled for 2024. And it could be a game-changer, as the Working programme also includes reform of the European elections process. The reform includes a right to vote for all European citizens leaving outside the EU, internet and postal voting as well as the possibility of transnational lists.

Mental health at the forefront

Along with food security, health is at the top of the list of the Working Programme. The Commission will continue its efforts towards a Health Union, with three final regulations adopted by the European Council on 24 October.

The Beating Cancer Plan is one of the focuses of this renewed collective approach to an ongoing pandemic. The 2023 Working Programme includes a Recommendation on vaccine-preventable cancers and an update of the smoke-free environments Recommendation. The EU looking to strengthen laws around chemicals through REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) as part of the Beating Cancer Plan. However, the Work Programme officially pushes back the revision to the fourth quarter of 2023.

Last but not least, in response to the Conference of Europe, a comprehensive approach to mental health is under preparation. Over 1 in 6 people across the EU reported having a mental health issue in 2016. A number which has been on the rise, as a result of COVID-19, and which make mental health conditions some of the fastest-growing current health burden. My colleague Joyce Pepe wrote an article dedicated to this issue, and the groups advocating for a European Year of Health, which you can read here.

 “The Commission will also continue to promote sport and the mental and physical benefits of a healthy lifestyle across society and across generations, building on the HealthyLifestyle4All initiative and its Youth Ideas Lab”. We are especially excited to see this mention, as we have been committed from the start to supporting the initiative.

As the Agency for a Healthy World, last September Schuttelaar & Partners has signed a pledge with the International Sport and Culture Association (ISCA) and  JOGG/Youth Health Community  to launch the HealthyLifestyle4All pledge in the presence of the European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education, Youth and Sport, Mariya Gabriel.

Our team dedicated to public affairs is following closely the implementation of this Work Programme. Make sure to contact us if you have any questions!