The outbreak of the Covid19 pandemic has led to political instability on a domestic and supranational level. The European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen declared it “the greatest health crisis in a century”. The pandemic has disrupted the daily activities of governments and often led to the delaying of legislative developments. As the world quickly adapted to the crisis, new policy areas came to the foreground. Others, on the other hand, shifted to the background.
Has public health become the new hot topic?
On the Policy-Insider.AI platform, we collect new policy documents from major institutions and identify the policy areas they relate to. Unsurprisingly, public health and healthcare have dominated the policymaking world during the Covid19 pandemic. The number of policy papers in public health and healthcare increased. It is visible especially around the last quarter of 2020 and the beginning of 2021. These dates coincide with large infection spikes in Europe.
In the case of the Covid19 pandemic, we can quickly identify a policy spill over into other health-related topics and beyond. A global discussion about international cooperation and equal access to healthcare has reemerged. In the European Union, Commission President von der Leyen called for the emergence of a strong European Health Union (ref 6). To that end, the new EU4Health programme will help to improve the public health sector beyond health crisis prevention.
An example of Covid19-prompted policy is the UK Department of Health and Social Care’s strategy for tackling obesity.
“The UK has been an interesting example of COVID-19 prompting greater policy action in public health, especially with regards to risk factors of underlying health conditions that led to worse outcomes when suffering from COVID-19, such as obesity – which is also a leading risk factor for cancer.”World Cancer Research Fund International
The healthcare matter is relatively complex and requires a multifaceted policy solution. Strong focus needs to be put on social, commercial/economic, environmental, and individual factors. The World Health Organization has highlighted the importance of developments in social and environmental policy.
Did Covid19 take the spotlight away from Brexit and the Green New Deal?
When we take a closer look at the trending hashtags on Twitter before March 2020, when the World Health Organization officially categorized Covid19 as a pandemic, we can see which topics received the most attention. Prior to March 2020, Brexit and the European Green Deal were some of the most used hashtags on Twitter amongst Members of the European Parliament. However, in March 2020, #Covid19 dominated the ranking. Agenda “highlights” such as #Brexit or the #GreenDeal lost their relative importance immediately.
Rob Jackson from the Global Carbon Project suggests that “Covid will delay the transition to a carbon-free future”. The Covid19 crisis led to a financial strain for many national governments. Not only smaller states but also global superpowers were not able to increase their green investment to the necessary levels. Moreover, the pandemic postponed crucial international climate talks, such as the United Nations Climate Change Conference. As for Brexit, the pandemic has delayed certain aspects of Great Britain’s departure from the EU. For example, the UK government was forced to delay EU imports checks to 2022 due to the disruption in supplies caused by the pandemic.
Now that Europe is slowly getting back to normal, which subjects have re-emerged?
Policy areas such as transport, including infrastructure and tourism, are gaining more interest from policymakers as the pandemic is increasingly under control. This leads us to wonder which other policy topics have re-emerged? To answer that question, we direct our attention to von der Leyen’s State of the Union speech on September 15th. The main directions for future policy development outlined by the Commission president are climate change, cyber security and cyber resilience, as well as the new European Chips Act.
This article was originally published in English. Translations have been generated automatically and may be incorrect.