EU economic governance: Between the commodification of health and the well-being economy

On Wednesday 28 February, EUHealthGov is delighted to welcome Roland Erne (University College Dublin) and Vania Putatti (EuroHealthNet), to discuss health in the EU’s economic governance framework.

Register for free here.

After the 2008 crisis, the EU introduced a New Economic Governance (NEG) regime that enabled far greater intervention of in policy areas hitherto shielded from vertical EU interventions, including healthcare. The webinar explores the implications of the EU’s shift to NEG, first from a basic, and then from an applied research perspective.

Roland Erne presents the finding of their basic European Research Council project with Sabina Stan on the European Commission and the Council of finance ministers’ NEG prescriptions in healthcare for Germany, Ireland, Italy, and Romania from 2009 to 2019, and the potential for countervailing collective actions of social actors. Their paper asks if the NEG prescriptions were informed by an overarching healthcare commodification script, as this is a necessary (albeit not sufficient) condition for transnational counter-movements. Their analysis finds no evidence for a socialisation of NEG prescriptions in healthcare under the Junker Commission (2014-2019), as the NEG healthcare prescriptions continued to be semantically linked to an overarching healthcare commodification taxonomy, which combines prescriptions favouring a reduced hospital sector restructured along managerial lines, managerialized primary care, the increased opening of the sector to private providers, reduced baskets of services, and increased private sources for funding and accessing healthcare. At the same time, the EU’s NEG prescriptions had not affected all countries equally, they especially targeted countries that lagged behind in health service commodification. Whereas the country-specific nature of NEG made it at first difficult for trade unions and social movements to challenge NEG’s commodification script through transnational counter-movements, their growing awareness of the commodifying script informing NEG has led to an increasing number of transnational protests in this policy field (See: Erne et al. 2024).

Given EuroHealthNet’s overarching goal to reduce health inequalities in the EU, Vania Putatti presents a recent policy paper that asks how the European Semester process – the main instrument of the NEG – might nonetheless be reformed to serve the creation of a well-being economy. Following a conference co-hosted by the European Economic and Social Committee in December 2023, and drawing on EuroHealthNet’s extensive work on health inequalities in the EU, Vania presents a recent policy paper which discusses the Semester’s implications for health, the concept of a well-being economy, and the potential avenues by which the latter might be integrated into the former.

Moderated by Eleanor Brooks (University of Edinburgh), the webinar will explore how the NEG might support supporting democratic and participatory approaches and the role of labour movements in the protection of democracy and the welfare state.

Further information:

Stan, S. and Erne, R. ‘Pursuing an overarching commodification script through country-specific interventions? The EU’s New Economic Governance prescriptions in healthcare (2009–2019)’, Socio-Economic Review, DOI: 10.1093/ser/mwad053. Free download: Full text.

EuroHealthNet. ‘How to achieve an Economy of Wellbeing with the support of the European Semester?’ Policy brief, December 2023. Full text.

Erne, R., Stan, S., Golden, D., Szabó, I. and Maccarrone, V. Politicising Commodification. European Governance and Labour Politics from the Financial Crisis to the Covid Emergency. forthcoming. Cambridge University Press. Full text.


EUHealthGovEUHealthGov is a research network, funded by the University Association for Contemporary Studies (UACES) and the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union, focused on the governance of health in the European Union. This event is part of its quarterly online seminar series, which provides a forum for discussion of a range of EU health governance topics, presented in roundtables, in-conversation sessions, work-in-progress seminars, practitioner perspectives and other formats.

The event will last 60 minutes, including a Q&A session.