The 705 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) that are elected, shape the future of 450 million European citizens – including ours.

The European Parliament elections take place every five years, and they are held to elect the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). During those five years, the MEPs make decisions that affect our daily lives, including our jobs, healthcare, and the environment. Therefore, the elections are the moment where we get to have a say in who is going to represent us and make the decisions that will have a major impact on key aspects of our lives, such as our brain health.  

The next elections will be from 6 to 9 June 2024. You can consult how to vote in your country by clicking here. If you’re currently living abroad in another European country, you should take a look at the webpage to see the options you have to exercise your right to vote. If you’re not sure why it’s important to vote, we’d like to share some important aspects with you.

What does the Parliament do?

The Parliament has three main roles or powers. They have a legislative role, which makes them responsible for passing EU laws, together with the Council of EU, based on European Commission proposals. They also have a supervisory role with a set of different responsibilities, such as, examining citizens’ petitions and setting up inquiries.  And finally, they also have a budgetary role where, together with the Council, they establish the EU budget. If you’d like to learn more details about these roles, you can take a look at the overview of their role and responsibilities here.

These institutions that work together are the ones that shape the future of Europeans. In terms of healthcare, they have roles and take actions that have a major impact on the daily life of European citizens. They regulate aspects such as: the market of supplies and equipment, the capacity for public spending in health systems, and specific health policies. They’re also responsible for the legal basis for direct EU action on health, including laws about patients’ rights, medicines, and medical products. As well as approving documents with recommendations to the Member States on a wide range of health issues, including rare diseases. They’re also in charge of developing new strategies, like the one presented in 2021 by the European Commision titled ¨An Equality Union: A Strategy on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities for 2021-2030¨, where they identify 8 areas of intervention that aim to promote the rights of persons with disabilities worldwide. And they have also been dedicating substantial resources to fund projects and research with different programmes.

As you can see, the amount of responsibilities and transcendence that the Parliament has calls for our effort and requires us to show up for our community by using our brain to choose the best candidates, for our future and for our health.

Why does it matter to us as a community?

The challenges of the communities affected by neurological diseases are unique, and therefore require special attention from policy-makers and decision-makers. To be able to get this attention, we have to do our part and join efforts in what seem like simple actions such as showing up to vote, keeping in mind the impact it will have on our quality of life. 

“At the EU Parliament, they out-carve health policies that matter and action plans that influence our lives living with a neurological condition or a brain health issue. That’s why we encourage every citizen throughout the European Union to use their vote and vote for their brain!”, says Astri Arnesesen, President of the European Huntington Association (EHA) and the European Federation of Neurological Associations (EFNA). 

As part of this election season, the EFNA published an election manifesto, which serves as a comprehensive roadmap toward prioritising optimal quality of life for people with neurological conditions and their carers.

You can read the whole manifesto here. In summary, in their manifesto, the EFNA calls on EU policymakers to:

  • Implement a well-resourced EU Joint Action on Neurological Conditions and Brain Health.
  • Revise European pharmaceutical legislation to encourage advancements in neurological treatments. 
  • Better resource and integrate the European Reference Networks in national healthcare systems.
  • Launch a patient-centred Brain Health Partnership with adequate resources from EU Institutions, Member States and for-profit actors.
  • Create the European Plan to Promote Brain Health, Optimal Living for those with Neurologic Conditions and Combat Neurologic and Brain Disorders.
  • Ensure active and equal patient participation in R&D activities, HTA and decision-making processes.
  • Adhere to the European Pillar of Social Rights, supporting neurological patients facing socio-economic challenges.
  • Align the EU NCD Initiative’s neurological strand with the targets of the WHO IGAP.
  • Prioritise IGAP targets to raise policy prioritisation and strengthen governance.
  • Develop national and EU-wide awareness campaigns and plans for neurological conditions. 
  • Strengthen neurological patients’ capacity at a national level through a dedicated EU project.
  • Foster national neurological alliances to facilitate the implementation of the IGAP.

These twelve points serve as an idea of what the future could look like for the Huntington’s disease community and other communities affected by neurological diseases. Keeping these improvements in mind should make us aware of the journey we have ahead of us and drive us to take a step forward to vote with our brain and vote for our brain! 

– Article written by Jarelys López