WHO and European Commission reinforce cooperation in key areas

Senior officials and technical experts agreed on concrete plans for working together in 2012 at a meeting on 6–7 March in Brussels, Belgium. They also reviewed progress since their last meeting in 2011. The meeting was chaired by Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, and Paola Testori Coggi, Director-General of the Directorate-General for Health and Consumers.

“We have different mandates and tools – and there is added value in our working together. Today’s senior officials’ meeting is another step in reinforcing our cooperation,” said Ms Coggi.

“For WHO, the primary objective of joining forces with the European Commission  is not to raise funds. It is to find ways through which the political and technical capacities of the Commission can add value to our common aspiration for better health outcomes in the European Region and worldwide,” said Ms Jakab.

At the end of the two-day meeting, senior officials agreed on strategic cooperation on in-country collaboration, health systems, health security, innovation and health, health information and health inequalities. In addition, WHO and the European Commission (EC) agreed to work closely on improving communication about events that may constitute a public health emergency of international concern. The key areas for strengthening their cooperation will include actions that have a European as well as global focus.

In the WHO European Region, WHO/Europe and the EC have approved roadmaps for strengthening their partnership in the 6 key areas over the next 12 months. At the global level, senior officials have approved five outcome documents outlining specific action for joint work.

The cooperation will take diverse forms, ranging from exchanging information and further exploring concrete action to implementing activities in countries. Further, the collaboration is not limited to the topics covered at the 2012 meeting; the participants mentioned the need for the 2013 meeting to include other areas, such as humanitarian aid, where strategic cooperation between the two organizations already exists. WHO proposed to host this meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

During the 2012 meeting, representatives from WHO regional offices outside Europe highlighted possible opportunities for collaborating with the EC.

In parallel, Ms Jakab met with Mr John Dalli, European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, and Mr Matthias Groote, new Chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI).