International cooperation

International organisations

The EU cooperates with international organisations to develop, implement, and promote its public health agenda. Specific cooperation arrangements exist with:

  • The World Health Organisation (WHO)
  • The Council of Europe
  • The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)

World Health Organisation (WHO) – health cooperation

Cooperation between the European Commission and WHO is based on an exchange of letters from 2001, which sets out general principles, objectives and procedures, including regular Senior Official Meetings.

In 2020, the Commission and the WHO Regional Office for Europe renewed their commitment to working together towards achieving the highest level of health and health protection, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), in particular Sustainable Development Goal 3 on health and well-being. They committed to expanding and deepening cooperation on health security, health systems, non-communicable diseases with a focus on cancer, sustainable food systems and health, health cooperation with non-EU countries.

Cooperation takes place at 3 geographic levels:

  • With the WHO Headquarters in Geneva on issues of global concern
  • With the WHO Regional Office for Europe (in Copenhagen) on European issues
  • In countries around the world (country-level cooperation).

In the area of communicable diseases the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) also works together closely with WHO on a range of issues. There are 3 levels of meetings: political, senior management and technical.

The Commission participates as an observer in annual meetings of the WHO Executive Board and the World Health Assembly in Geneva, as well as in the annual meetings of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe. In collaboration with the European External Action Service (EEAS), it works with EU countries to prepare joint statements, and to negotiate texts with other countries. In addition, it participates in the regular consultations that WHO organises, working to ensure consistency between the policies and action of both parties.

Since 2005, the Commission has been working together with WHO on a number of policy projects, with funding from the EU public health programme.

The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and the International Health Regulations (IHR) are important international health laws developed under the auspices of the WHO. The European Commission was closely involved in negotiations on the Convention and Health Regulations, and supports their implementation.

Partners in the World Health Security Initiative, the European Commission and the World Health Organisation are developing a road map for joint work on:

  • Emergency preparedness
  • Communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis
  • Antimicrobial resistance
  • Immunisation