The European Commission has published the new Annual Growth Survey 2017, which set up the beginning of the European Semester cycle for 2017. Priorities of action are devoted to economic recovery, investments in youth and jobseekers and in its start-ups and SMEs. The EU Commission also recommends the issuing of a Council recommendation on the economic policy for the euro area, a Communication on a positive fiscal stance for the euro area and a thorough analysis of economic labour market and social conditions.

The Euro
The Annual Growth Survey published by the Eu Commission paves the way for the European Semester 2017 (credits: FotoshopTofs/pixabay)

Despite some positive signals of resilience and recovery of the European economy, the European scenery still remains fragile, with high rate of unemployment in many parts of Europe. GDP and productivity growth rates are far away their full potential and also investment levels are below pre-crisis levels, says the Survey. “There are still significant imbalances and broader risks within the euro area and the EU more generally, with convergence among and within the Member States stalled in many cases”. The document highlights the need to pursue structural reforms, still incomplete in many Member States, according to the country-specific recommendations.

The commitments set forward by the European Commission include the intention to build an economic policy based on the virtuous triangle of boosting investment, pursuing structural reforms, and ensuring responsible fiscal policies. Dialogue with the Member States will also be favoured, together with mainstreaming social considerations. The rules of the Stability and Growth Pact should assure the needed flexibility and facilitate reforms and investment through the “investment” and “structural reforms” clauses. The extension of the European Fund for Strategic Investments should further contribute to revamp the European economy. The Commission is also supporting new measures to deepen the Single Market in the field of services and products, as well as infrastructure. The final achievement of the Energy Union and a true Digital Single Market shall help the expansion of business opportunities as well as the closure of trade agreements and the establishment of a fair taxation system across the EU, states the Survey. Employment should benefit by the new Skills Agenda. The enforcement of the “deepening by doing” concept should help to strengthen the Economic and Monetary Union, as well as initiatives to complete the Banking Union and to take better account of euro area priorities.

EFPIA’s comments to the Survey

The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industry Association (EFPIA) has agreed from its website with the three main objectives for EU economic policy – to boost investment, to pursue structural reforms and to ensure responsible fiscal policies. The pharmaceutical industry highlights also the need to set up a strategic approach to investment and structural reforms in order to achieve long-term fiscal sustainability. “Health policies should support social safety and active inclusion through preventive, curative and rehabilitation policies”, writes EFPIA in its commentary to the Survey. Investing in health and reforming health systems to deliver better health outcomes for each euro spent will be essential to reach these objectives. The Federation stresses the importance of the pharmaceutical sector as a main driver for the growth of the entire European economy, where innovation and highly-qualified employment are the rule and not the exception. “Investing in health is therefore both a prerequisite for achieving long-term fiscal sustainability, given the demographic changes in Europe, but will also in itself boost productivity, innovation and employment”, says EFPIA.

The pharmaceutical Federation also made some recommendations to help the European institutions to achieve the goals established by the Annual Growth Survey. First of all, the opportunity to evaluate Member States health policies based on a thorough and evidence-based assessment of health system performance, as pointed out by the “Joint Report on Healthcare and Long-term Care Systems and Fiscal Sustainability”. According to the report, overall indicators of population health such as healthy life years and mortality need to be complemented by disease-specific and patient reported health outcomes measures.

According to EFPIA, the focus on health outcomes should inspire the reform of healthcare systems, as variation in health outcomes is still high both across and within EU countries. “Many of these variations are due to unwarranted differences in clinical practice, care pathways or uptake in health technology”, says EFPIA’s comment. “Full transparency of outcomes data can also facilitate a positive “race to the top” and enable patient choice”. Integrated solutions for health service delivery and integrated budgets for healthcare and social care services should be the instrument of choice to reach the goal of treating patients affected by one or several chronic diseases.

Health system performance assessment (HPSA) should be used to compare and analyse healthcare performance. The instrument would facilitate the spreading of good practices and improving the performance of those lagging behind. The use of health data might also be important, for EFPIA, to improve health outcomes and reduce inefficiencies. Finally, EFPIA indicates the need to increase health spending in countries with poor health outcomes and access to health services.