Influence Index 2020: Top influential MEPs on EU’s health policy

This analysis is part of the Influence Index: a new data-driven ranking of MEPs by VoteWatch Europe and BCW Brussels. It is the first MEP ranking to measure influence through two crucial dimensions, namely: 

– Political influence: the ability to change legislation, win votes, and shape debates;   

– Social influence: the ability to reach people, shift the public conversation, and build a community of support.

The following report sheds light on the top MEPs by political influence on EU health policy. The full results are available on the dedicated website

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While there is little actual health-related EU legislation in the making, this policy area suddenly climbed at the top of EU’s priorities due to COVID-19. Consequently, those MEPs who have the right background in the field or are well positioned are also becoming increasingly influential. This is why we are starting our series of sectorial reports with health: which MEPs will hold the key to the direction in which EU policies will be shaped?

VoteWatch has applied a comprehensive methodology to spot who these representatives of citizens’ interests are and the reasons that make certain MEPs more or less influential. Given that we are merely at the beginning of the legislative cycle, at this point in time the professional background and the political network are the most important indicators of potential influence. However, later on, we will see in which cases this will be transposed into actual influence on shaping dossiers. In some cases, as we advance towards the middle of the legislative cycle, other influencers also emerge, reason for which it is useful to keep an eye on the bigger picture. To read the full methodology, click here.

This is what we found at this point in time:
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Notes:

1. The research below does not include the views of the MEPs, i.e. the directions in which they are likely to push and pull EU legislation. To find out those, contact us at [email protected]

2. Always keep in mind that while individual MEPs are the visible signatories of initiatives or amendments, in reality, their views are shaped (and their margins of maneuver are limited) by bigger political and societal forces that converge when policy-making is done. Ignoring those forces can lead to surprises, so make sure you don’t just look at the visible MEPs, who are just the tip of the iceberg, but also look at their colleagues, networks and other stakeholders surrounding them, i.e. keep in mind that 90% of the iceberg is “below the sea level”. Feel free to contact us to learn more.

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TOP 5 MEPs

1) Peter Liese brings a lot of experience to the European Parliament, currently serving his 6th term. He is currently the coordinator of the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety on behalf of the EPP. He is also a member of the MEP interest group on kidney health. Liese is a graduated doctor from the University of Bonn. He has been active on health issues throughout his career as an MEP. In the past he has led policy files on medical devices, medicines, fight against drugs in developing countries and safety of cell and tissue donation.

In addition to having a very solid background, he also has the backing of a national party and a political group who are highly influential when it comes to health policies, ie. the CDU and EPP, respectively.  Peter Liese has the strongest potential of influencing most of the health-related issues that will pass through the EP. To this end, knowing what his views are on all matters is the natural place to start for any stakeholder.

2) Sara Cerdas is currently serving her first term in Parliament for the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament. Cerdas is a doctor who graduated with a master’s degree and pursued a PhD in public health sciences from the University of Stockholm. Because of her profession, she has been actively interested in health issues throughout her career. She is currently a member of the committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety.

In the Parliament, she has been a rapporteur on a Resolution on enabling the digital transformation of health and care in the Digital Single Market. She is very well networked, being a member of many MEP interest groups, such as Coalition for Mental Health and Wellbeing, The Members of the European Parliament (MEP) Heart Group, and the European Alzheimer’s Alliance. Furthermore, she is the co-chair of the Health Working Group within the ENVI Committee. 

3) Cristian-Silviu Bușoi is currently serving his fourth term in Parliament for the Group of the European People’s Party. He has been interested in the health area for a long time, being a doctor by profession. He currently serves as the chair of the ITRE committee, reason for which he is likely to pay less attention to the developments in the ENVI committee (where he is currently only a substitute, formerly a full member). However, if circumstances concur, he can use his leverage as committee chair and his professional expertise to influence dossiers in the ENVI committee. He has been a rapporteur on the Programme for the Union’s action in the field of health for the period 2021-2027. He is also a member of various interest groups such as European Alzheimer’s Alliance, European Patients’ Rights & Cross-Border Healthcare, and co-chair of Patient access partnership PACT.

Politically, Busoi has shown strong skills in adapting to changing circumstances, networking, and gaining the trust of his colleagues (along with his national party, he used to be part of ALDE, but it is now a recognized pillar of the EPP group).

4) Dolors Montserrat is currently serving her first term in Parliament. Previously she has been minister of Health in the Spanish government and she is influential on a variety of health topics. Montserrat is chair of the Committee on Petitions, and member of the ENVI committee. She is currently a rapporteur on a file on funding for biomedical research on Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. Montserrat is also a member of the intergroup on disability. Outside of the EP, Montserrat supports a variety of health initiatives, including MEPs Against Cancer, the MEP lung health group, the Allergy & Asthma interest group, and Health First Europe.

5) Biljana Borzan studied at the Zagreb school of medicine, where she specialized in occupational and sports medicine. Borzan entered the European Parliament in 2013, where she has been active within the committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. Borzan has also been the EP’s spokesperson for the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Currently, Borzan is a member of the EP intergroup on disability, and outside of the Parliament she supports a broad range of health initiatives, including the MEP health group, European Alzheimer’s Alliance, MEP Cancer group, and the MEP Group on Antimicrobial Resistance.

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A look from the political groups’ perspective

When looking from the perspective of the influence exerted by the political groups, we did find some relevant patterns. As we have already seen, S&D and EPP members dominate the top 5. Incumbency plays a key role here, as Liese , Busoi, and Borzan are seasoned MEPs. However, we found that there is also room for newcomers such as Montserrat (former Spanish Minister for Health – EPP) and Cerdas (S&D).

The higher influence of EPP and S&D members is also shown by overall statistics on the proportional influence by political group (since we are looking at the average influence of the groups’ members, the different sizes of the groups are being factored in).  

Among the possible explanations for this outcome, we found that S&D, EPP, and Renew have a higher share of doctors/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 approaches, feeling more comfortable with more centrist positions.

Interestingly, doctors are also well represented within the ID group. However, the underperformance in terms of influence of the MEPs belonging to the ID group is explained by the deliberate political isolation of the group (i.e. the cordon sanitaire created by the other groups) which prevents them from reaching to leadership positions or important reports in the EP. Other factors that impact negatively on the potential influence of health professionals in the ID group are the lower seniority and lack of links to parties in government.

One last note concerns the Renew Europe group, whose members seem less influential in health issues than one would intuitively be tempted to think. Our closer look revealed that Renew Europe loses more votes on health issues (in particular when it comes to healthcare accessibility) than on most other policy areas (where Renew members act as kingmakers). However, when it comes to health, Renew has yet to properly capitalize on its potential.

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A look from the national groups’ perspective

The French and the Germans seem to be punching below their potential (also taking into account the strength of their health sector), while, from among the big countries, the Spaniards and the Polish are the top performers.

Looking at the smaller countries is important, as some of them provide key influencers. For example, Maltese (who benefit from strong voting behaviour performance and network), Luxembourgish (key contribution by Tilly Metz), and Lithuanian MEPs (there are 3 doctors among the 11 Lithuanian MEPs) are the top performers in terms of proportional political influence. 

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Click HERE for more detailed information on the methodology for the assessment of political influence.

For further inquiries, contact us at [email protected] or +3223181188. 

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