The EU is a large machine, producing countless number of initiatives, laws and funding streams every day. We all understand that it is very important to keep abreast of these developments in order to mitigate the risks of new legislation, but also to take full advantage of opportunities such as funding. However, despite many genuine efforts, the EU remains pretty opaque. The reason for this is that the large number of different sources where information might come from.
In law-making the most important moment to influence a text is right at the beginning; this means that if one fails to spot a new initiative, it may be too late in the future to have your voice heard. Here are my 5 tips to improve your monitoring of EU policy:
1. Use social media and watch TV
Twitter and, to a lesser extent, Facebook are becoming very good sources of unofficial intelligence. I have found that MEPs feel very at ease on Twitter and some of them share a lot. They also express their personal views more freely, sometimes breaking away from party lines. This can give you behind the scenes insights which you will not find on their official websites. Of course, with 751 MEPs, keeping track of all their social media output is impossible. A good tool to use is www.epnewshub.eu – this website allows you to search all MEPs social media outputs for your chosen keyword; for example you could type “eHealth” and it will scroll through all MEPs output in Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Instagram etc.
You should also follow the twitter feeds of the “Big Players” in your sector (see 2.). Additionally, it is always worth following the twitter #hashtag for important conferences or subject matters of importance to you. For instance, #EHFG2016 for the 2016 European Health Forum Gastein or #TTIP for tweets about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership which will have an impact on healthcare provision.
For those of you who have more time on their hands, or simply do not wish to travel to Brussels to attend a meeting, EU institutions are increasingly broadcasting meetings and conferences online. The Parliament broadcasts its meetings which you can then watch on replay. The Commission now also livestreams some of its conferences (like the European Professional Card conference) and allows viewers to participate interactively through Twitter. Unfortunately it doesn’t allow you to watch them on demand after the event.
2. Follow the Big Players
There are a number of “big players” in EU health policy which are essential to follow if you want to know what is going on. They provide a stakeholder view of developments which is always interesting because they stem from an external analysis. This might shed the light on certain aspects of a policy which you had not thought about. Below is a very short, non-exhaustive list of stakeholders I personally follow because of their interesting publications – you should research who the big names in your sector are and follow them. Many of them have weekly or monthly newsletters that are worth signing up to.
Health Professionals Crossing Borders – European Health Management Association – European Public Health Alliance – European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations – European Alliance for Personalised Medicine – European Patients’ Forum
3. Read the specialised press
There are a number of good sources of information for EU health news; to name but a few:
These are great sources for analysis of developments but of course, they report the news and do not help plan your engagement at the start of policy initiatives.
4. Use old school tech
I know it’s 2016 but when it comes to getting a stream of information, RSS is still the simplest way to gather information. The EU is actually pretty good at “pushing out” information. Sign up to the relevant RSS feeds for the policy you are interested in; here are all the EU Commission RSS feeds. MEP questions and answers salso have their RSS feeds – funnily enough, these are pushed through RSS a few days before they are published on the Parliament website. The following RSS feeds are worth signing up to:
All EU agencies also have their own RSS feeds which you can sign up to.
5. Create an account on the European Transparency Register
As a registrant with on the Transparency Register you can tell the European Commission which sectors you are interested in and it will send you emails with details of consultations which might interest you. The downside is that if you are not really a lobbyist, and if you do not require accreditation to the European Parliament this can be tedious. Indeed, you have to register your organisation, provide documentation and renew your registration every year. The alternative is to regularly monitor the Commission’s consultation page.
Of course, nothing beats being on the ground and exchanging intelligence with consultants on the ground but these 5 steps should keep you well informed without actually leaving your desk.
Promo alert! Alternatively, you could use EU Monitr. We specialise in monitoring EU health policy. We are EU health policy experts who use state of the art technology to bring succinct, highly relevant monitoring solutions to our subscribers. You can find out about our services here and sign up to our free weekly EU Public Health newsletter or our EU Pharma newsletter.