FEPS-FABIAN NEW YEAR CONFERENCE 2022. Rising to the challenge: the left’s ambitions in Britain and Europe

First fully hybrid new year conference about the shared challenges facing the UK and countries across Europe. Debates the left’s ambitions, seeking to rebuild our societies and economies after the pandemic and prepare for green transition and digital transformation. Friends House 173-177 Euston Road London, NW1 2BJ United Kingdom, 15 January 2022.

Conference agenda (download here)

Presentation of Vytenis Andriukaitis, former EU Commissioner for Health and food safety

Thanks for inviting to your conference.

The UK has left the European Union but stays in close relationship with the European continent and the EU.

3 observations that may be close to the hearts of people on British Left:

  1. COVID-19 has upgraded the need for regional and global health cooperation. A notion of vital health goods and services as global public goods has potential to reshape or, at least, to polish up international politics. And SDG 3 and universal health coverage are our common obligations.
  2. Learning from the best European practices always was key for the improvement of health status on the continent. Does mutually beneficial exchange of experiences between the UK and countries of Continental Europe will benefit due to creation of a European Health Union or is at risk?
  3. Growing role of health in national and international policies is beneficial for the socialist movement. Social justice in health care and cure, access to primary health care and universal health coverage living no one behind are our common goals.


  1. Global Health cooperation

For the genesis of strong international cooperation for health we may look to the Constitution of WHO adopted in July 1946. A principle “The health of all peoples is fundamental to the attainment of peace and security and is dependent upon the fullest COOPERATION OF individuals and STATES” is enshrined in the Constitution. And it is still our promise to deliver it to people.

COVID-19 brought the understanding that “no one is safe until everyone is safe” very close to people. Unprecedented level of public involvement and international cooperation rewarded the humanity with record braking development and production of vaccines. A notion that COVID-19 vaccines are global public goods is capturing minds and this is a progress. How many lives have not been saved because of the profiteering of multinational corporations? The importance of a move towards vaccine justice on the Global scale is already a fact but the journey is far from over. It is a duty of nations and especially of Left leaning part of our societies to assure immunity to COVID-19 all over the world.  Towards these ends all opportunities provided by the traditional ways to assist the global south as well as novel approaches (for example patent waiver for production of vaccines) should be harnessed. The end of pandemic should not mean the halt of global public goods. Hope the experiences of international cooperation gained during the pandemic will initiate much broader development.

  1. A European Health Union and the UK

Quite a long time health policy was considered as a competence of nation states regardless of being or not in the EU. On the other hand, European history witnessed the fact that countries are wise enough to examine experiences of neighbours and learn from these experiences. Development of a European Health Union has potential to inspire new impetus in building the Health and Wellbeing Union, to increase cooperation of MS in fighting infections, management of rare diseases, health science, health care labour force management, health statistics (for more details on perspectives of a EHU see Manifesto published in November 2020). Stronger harmonization of health policies in the EU will make health care systems more transparent and easier to understand for traditional and new out standers.  It is in the interest of the EU and, I assume of the UK, to consider partnerships while working on internal projects. Most of avenues of pan-European cooperation would be more splendour with the EU and UK working shoulder to shoulder.  The strong EHU can help EU to develop strongest concept of Global Health and engage strengthen cooperation with all countries in European continent.

  1. Health as social, physical and mental Wellbeing is at the hearth of socialist movement

Most of national health policies are based on acknowledgment of market failures and elements of public goods in provision of prevention, and cure of diseases.  Lessons provided by Covid-19 is a proof that in the 21st century national and international public action in health have clear advantages in comparison to solutions provided only by market forces.

Inequalities in health care and cure, social determinants in health, healthcare workforce shortages within countries and between countries, medical deserts – all those challenges require our common actions based on our social justice and solidarity philosophy.

Apart of health crisis, climate change, growing poverty, military conflicts are the main challenges of the modernity that cannot be mitigated just by neoclassical policies. Socialist theories have a strong footprint in modern environmental and social policies. Social, environmental and health pillars should build the basics on new EHU.

Blending of socialist dimensions of traditional health, environmental and social policies with acknowledgment of importance of public actions gained during the fight against COVID-19 provides a good opportunity to upgrade programs of socialist movements. According to my opinion, these upgrades would be instrumental to showcase relevance of socialist agenda to broader public.