In its relations with non-EU countries, and international organisations in the field of public health, the EU aims to:
- Foster good health for all at all within the EU and beyond its borders
- Promote high quality public health principles, standards and legislation
- Raise awareness of global health issues, as part of its global public health policy
- Address health inequalities between countries and regions within the EU.
These aims are addressed through various policies and cooperation with relevant interested parties.
In addition, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) have active international programmes.
Cooperation with non-EU countries
The EU has bilateral Partnership and Cooperation Agreements with many non-EU countries around the world which set a general framework for cooperation on public health. The agreements also serve as a basis for bilateral cooperation between individual EU countries and non EU countries.
Where more technical cooperation is required, the European Commission (DG for Health and Food Safety) may enter into sectoral agreements with national ministries.
The EU advises candidate countries and potential candidate countries on EU health policy, and evaluates their progress in aligning with EU norms and policies on health. The relevant "chapters" of the accession negotiations are:
- Public health - chapter 28 on consumer and health protection
- Pharmaceuticals - chapter 1 on the free movement of goods.
The European Commission supports and guides enlargement countries and monitors progress in incorporating these rules into their own legislation. It also contributes to enforcement, and to developing the administrative and financial resources for effective regulatory systems and better health promotion and protection. Progress reports on alignment, capacity building and implementation of EU health rules are published annually. After assessment, countries are invited to engage in action plans e.g. in the field of communicable diseases to meet EU standards.
Legislative alignment, regulatory convergence and institution-building/administrative strengthening are being supported through technical assistance mechanisms (TAIEX) or twinning programmes programmes with EU national administrations.
European Neighbourhood Policy
The European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) is the EU’s key foreign policy towards 16 of its neighbours — Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Moldova, Morocco, Palestine1, Syria, Tunisia and Ukraine.
The ENP relies on bilateral Action Plans, agreed between the EU and each partner, which set out the agenda for reform over three to five years. ENP Action Plans refer to public health cooperation. Depending on an individual country’s priorities, such cooperation is envisaged in particular fields such as:
- Health and public health sector reform and health policy dialogue
- Health information and knowledge
- Communicable disease surveillance and control and health security
- Non-communicable diseases.
The EU works closely with its neighbours to enhance health security and build core IHR (International Health Regulations) capacities in partner countries. The Commission supports capacity building for prevention, early detection and response to health threats including through training programs in field epidemiology such as the MediPIET project. MediPIET built a regional network of competent public health professionals -in 18 countries across the neighbourhood- available in case of a cross-border health threats. The ECDC has developed close technical cooperation with neighbourhood partners to exchange best practices and familiarise them with EU standards and systems.
The Commission collaborates closely with Eastern partners who have Association Agreements with the EU (Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia) to assist their approximation to and implementation of EU health rules as well as overall public health reforms.
1 This designation shall not be construed as recognition of a State of Palestine and is without prejudice to the individual positions of individual EU countries on this issue.