Did you say social Europe? MHE’s reaction the Country Specific Recommendations
Brussels, 25 May 2016 – As part of the EU Semester framework, the European Commission recently published its proposals for annual Country Specific Recommendations (recommendations). MHE has mixed feelings about this year’s recommendations which again mostly overlook the social element of the European Semester. While financial sustainability and growth are important objectives of the EU Semester, it is also meant to trigger inclusive growth by implementing the Europe 2020 targets on social inclusion and poverty reduction. MHE is concerned that these recommendations focus mainly on fiscal and employment matters, missing the opportunity to fully address the social challenges faced by Member States.
“We are worried that the effort to streamline recommendations which began last year has even further limited scope to address such challenges, it will undermine states’ incentives to invest in mental health and social inclusion” says MHE Director Akiko Hart. However, MHE is pleased to see that healthcare is mentioned in 13 recommendations which is an increase from last year but a decrease in comparison to 2014 (before the streamlining started). For growth to be sustainable and inclusive, access to affordable and quality health care must be ensured, including mental health care.
One in four people will experience a mental health problem during their lifetime but mental health continues to be treated as a luxury in many Member States and remains too often under prioritised. “There is a crisis in the mental health care systems of many Member States because mental health receives little funding within overall healthcare budgets. MHE urges the European Commission to remind Member States of the importance of investing in mental health – it’s a major public health and social issue” adds MHE Director Akiko Hart. Disability issues are also disregarded in the recommendations and there are no recommendations specifically targeted towards this group despite the fact that we are aware that rates of unemployment and poverty are higher for persons with disabilities, including people with psychosocial disabilities and mental health problems.
Although long term unemployment is present in the recommendations it does not address the different needs of some specific groups in accessing the labour market. Quality employment can be hugely important for mental wellbeing and is central to many people’s sense of self-worth. Investing in integrated employment and support for marginalised groups including persons with mental health problems will boost inclusive growth.
The Commission needs to increase the number of recommendations that tackle the social challenges facing Europeans today without forgetting to address the situation of the marginalised and excluded in society including persons with mental health problems. It is time for Europe to strengthen its social model and for the European Semester to deliver on its promise to spur inclusive growth.