EU in the world

World Health Organization

Cooperation takes place at three geographic levels: with WHO HQ in Geneva on issues of global concern, with the WHO Regional Office for Europe (based in Copenhagen) for European issues, and country-level cooperation around the world. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) also works closely with WHO on a range of issues related to communicable diseases. The cooperation with WHO is also organised at several hierarchical levels.

Update on the Cooperation between the European Commission and WHO – September 2015

Relations between the Commission and the WHO are governed by an exchange of letters of 14 December 2000, detailing the objectives, priorities and areas of cooperation, as well as the procedures, activities and practical arrangements for its implementation. More specific cooperation has taken place in the context of the Moscow Declaration of 2010. The exchange of letters provides for an annual meeting of senior officials’ meeting of both sides. The most recent senior officials’ meeting (SOM) was held in February 2015.

In September 2015, the Commission and the WHO Regional Office for Europe renewed their joint commitment to work together towards their shared objective of better health in Europe. In a new document, they outlined the objectives, principles and modalities of their continued cooperation, with a view to further develop complementarities and synergies. Both institutions commit to maintain and expand their cooperation on innovation; health security; health information; health inequalities; health systems; and chronic diseases. A new emphasis is placed on the importance of cross-sectoral cooperation to achieve health policy goals and on modalities to define and implement concrete cooperative actions.

EC/WHO High level meetings

At political level, regular meetings take place between the EU Health Commissioner and the WHO Director General Margaret Chan. The most recent of these was in September 2011 in the margins of the UN General Assembly meeting on Non Communicable Diseases in New York.

EC/WHO Senior Officials Meetings

Senior Officials Meetings take place annually and involve all relevant Commission Services as well as WHO-HQ and WHO-EURO. The principal purpose is, at global and regional levels, to review progress and to look at new challenges on the wide range of topics where cooperation is needed.

In-country cooperation

At operational level, EU Delegations in third countries around the world cooperate with their counterparts in the WHO country offices to optimise the efficacy of the health assistance they both provide to their hosts.

EC / WHO collaborative projects

At any one time there are many joint EC / WHO projects involving technical or financial collaboration - across many different Commission Directorates-General, all WHO Regions and headquarters. DG Europaid and DG ECHO provide the biggest funds to WHO projects within the Commission.

Since 2005, the Commission Health & Consumer Protection Directorate General has been collaborating directly with the WHO/Europe on a number of policy projects, with funding from the EU public health programme

Commission input to WHO work

The Commission participates as an observer in the annual meetings of the WHO Executive Board and the World health Assembly in Geneva as well as the annual meetings of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe. It works with EU Member States to prepare joint statements and to negotiate texts with third countries. In addition, the Commission works with WHO and participates in the regular consultations that WHO organises on the health topics within its remit, working to ensure coherence between the policies and actions being developed by both parties but above all to achieve optimal outcomes for all.

EC / WHO cooperation on international health law

The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and the International Health Regulations are important international health laws developed under the auspices of the World Health Organization. Working with EU Member States the European Commission was been closely involved in negotiations on FCTC and IHR, both of which explicitly recognize the role of the European Union as a regional economic integration organization.

The European Commission also worked with EU Member States in the WHO Inter Governmental Working Group on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property as well as in the WHO Inter Governmental Working Group on Pandemic Influenza Preparedness. Although the formal intergovernmental work on these has been concluded, the Commission is closely involved in the follow-up implementation.