EU May Shift Green Deal Funding Into ‘White Deal’ For Pandemic Healthcare Needs

  • Date: 22/04/20
  • Dave Keating, Forbes

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has floated an idea: why not combine the green deal climate plan with a white deal for healthcare?

As EU national leaders prepare for a crucial video summit tomorrow on how to respond to the economic crisis caused by Coronavirus, about half the member countries are insisting that the EU Green Deal to fight climate change unveiled in December be the backbone of the strategy.

But given that the immediate healthcare needs of the outbreak are preoccupying most governments at the moment, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has floated an idea: why not combine the green deal climate plan with a white deal for healthcare?

“Certainly, the reserves in most countries have turned out to be too small in view of this pandemic,” she told Germany’s Focus magazine. “The identified deficits teach us that in future we will have to think differently about our health systems. That also applies to the amount of reserves for paying healthcare workers”.

The idea has been described as a “white deal” by German media in reference to the color associated with healthcare, although the president has not used the term herself.

Already EU governments have agreed to let countries which use the euro draw up to 2% of their GDP from the European Stability Mechanism, which has a €500 billion capacity, for healthcare spending. Like the green deal sets the framework for the huge amount of money ring-fenced for climate spending in the EU budget, so too could a white deal set the framework for the huge amount of healthcare spending now envisaged.

Von der Leyen has said the EU’s next long-term budget for 2021-2027, still not yet agreed, would be the framework for this healthcare spending.

Up till now healthcare policy has been almost entirely the preserve of member states, with little opportunity for the EU to get involved. European countries have widely divergent healthcare systems, with some like the U.K. and Italy having single payer systems while others have private systems with a public option. The lack of EU competence over healthcare has inhibited the ability of Brussels to take decisive action during the Coronavirus crisis.

Von der Leyen suggested that it may be time to give more coordinating power over healthcare to Brussels, in order to be better prepared for the next health crisis. 

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