Good news for the acceding countries: joining the EU is likely to be good for their health. The document published with September's European Social Policy is a study on Europe's social situation, showing that Europeans are living longer and longer. The EU's poorer members, the so-called Cohesion Countries - Spain, Portugal, Greece and Ireland -, have all experienced sharper rises in life expectancy in recent years than the older members of the club and the ten soon-to-be members are assured that they can expect the same good fate. And what's more, EU citizens are living longer than our cousins on the other side of the Atlantic, a fact that is largely attributed to our more inclusive access to healthcare and our favourable living and working conditions. It would seem that the European Social Model is alive and well (and would probably live to 81 if it were female).

However, at a time when the EU is cracking down on the misleading health claims on many food products, are we really in a position to make such promises to the future Member States? It is no secret that our longevity is putting an unbearable strain on social security, pension schemes and national health services. We have seen a Summer of public service discontent in France and Germany, and the ageing nursing profession is in crisis across the EU, with governments needing to search further and further afield to find nurses for their public healthcare services.

Reforms are necessary, but are also likely to push EU citizens away from the state and into the arms of private insurers. Yet, if we...

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