Posted by: Dirk | April 4, 2013

Lancet study: The Health of Nations

The medicine magazine Lancet has published a study on “The Health of Nations”, more precisely on the state of health in European countries. The results are devastating:

Greece, Spain, and Portugal adopted strict fiscal austerity; their economies continue to recede and strain on their health-care systems is growing. Suicides and outbreaks of infectious diseases are becoming more common in these countries, and budget cuts have restricted access to health care. By contrast, Iceland rejected austerity through a popular vote, and the financial crisis seems to have had few or no discernible effects on health. Although there are many potentially confounding differences between countries, our analysis suggests that, although recessions pose risks to health, the interaction of fiscal austerity with economic shocks and weak social protection is what ultimately seems to escalate health and social crises in Europe. Policy decisions about how to respond to economic crises have pronounced and unintended effects on public health, yet public health voices have remained largely silent during the economic crisis.

I find it debatable that the effects on public health are unintended – if government spending is cut like this it must have been clear to the policy makers what was to happen. Also, what is being done on the European level is clearly against the spirit of the Maastricht Treaty. Here are the first two articles (my highlighting):

TITLE I COMMON PROVISIONS

Article A

By this Treaty, the High Contracting Parties establish among themselves a European Union, hereinafter called ‘the Union’. This Treaty marks a new stage in the process of creating an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe, in which decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen. The Union shall be founded on the European Communities, supplemented by the policies and forms of cooperation established by this Treaty. Its task shall be to organize, in a manner demonstrating consistency and solidarity, relations between the Member States and between their peoples.

Article B

The Union shall set itself the following objectives:

–  to promote economic and social progress which is balanced and sustainable, in particular through the creation of an area without internal frontiers, through the strengthening of economic and social cohesion and through the establishment of economic and monetary union, ultimately including a single currency in accordance with the provisions of this Treaty;

–  to assert its identity on the international scene, in particular through the implementation of a common foreign and security policy including the eventual framing of a common defence policy, which might in time lead to a common defence;

–  to strengthen the protection of the rights and interests of the nationals of its Member States through the introduction of a citizenship of the Union;

–  to develop close cooperation on justice and home affairs;

–  to maintain in full the ‘acquis communautaire’ and build on it with a view to considering, through the procedure referred to in Article N(2), to what extent the policies and forms of cooperation introduced by this Treaty may need to be revised with the aim of ensuring the effectiveness of the mechanisms and the institutions of the Community.

The objectives of the Union shall be achieved as provided in this Treaty and in accordance with the conditions and the timetable set out therein while respecting the principle of subsidiarity as defined in Article 3b of the Treaty establishing the European Community.

The European Monetary Union as it realised with the European Commission and the European Central Bank does not “promote economic and social progress which is balanced and sustainable”, quite the opposite. Having a European currency is fine, but the idea to give money to banks but not (directly) to governments means that those who are unemployed and/or poor and need money are denied it and those that are rich and need money do get it (via bank bail-outs). That is incompatible with the Maastricht treaty, I would argue.

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