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Despite the European Union's seemingly limited legal mandate in the area of healthcare policy, the EU's influence is greater than it appears. This development has unintended and serious implications on fundamental human rights. This is the conclusion of doctoral research by Anniek de Ruijter, who will receive her doctorate from the University of Amsterdam (UvA) on 16 January.

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De Ruijter analysed the EU's growing influence on healthcare policy in relation to fundamental rights. She assessed three case studies, one of which concerned the EU's approach to swine flu in 2009.

‘Non-binding agreements are often tied to binding regulations. As a result, it can be difficult for member states to ignore agreements or regulations at European level’, De Ruijter explains. According to her research, the EU's growing influence over healthcare policy is attributable to the fact that this practical freedom is ultimately often followed by the introduction of concrete legal provisions.

Fundamental human rights

‘Healthcare policy tends to impact on fundamental human rights. It is closely related to aspects such as fundamental rights to healthcare access and the right to privacy and personal data protection. For example, the medical details of flu patients were distributed throughout the EU during the previous swine flu outbreak', De Ruijter says.

‘The growing importance of these policies and their impact on fundamental rights raises questions about legitimacy, especially if we factor in the uncertain legal basis for some aspects of EU health policy.’

In addition to the swine flu outbreak, De Ruijter assessed the growing impact of European bureaucracy on healthcare policy and European policies governing cross-border access to hospitals and doctors.


Ms A. de Ruijter, A Silent Revolution: The Expansion of the Power of the EU in the Field of Human Health. A Rights-Based Analysis of EU Health Law & Policy. Supervisor: Professor D.M. Curtin.

Time and location

The doctoral thesis defence ceremony will take place on Friday, 16 January at 12:00.
Location: Agnietenkapel, Oudezijds Voorburgwal 231, Amsterdam.