Getting better: the European Union's performance in the World Health Organization
By Louise van Schaik
Abstract This paper analyses the performance of the European Union (EU) in the World Health Organization (WHO). It sets out a framework for analysing the EU's performance in relation to unity in external representation. EU unity is assumed to be derived from European Community (EC) competence, the preference homogeneity of EU member states, and the socialization into EU practices of their representatives. The article discusses the increased Europeanization and internationalization of health issues. It argues that this makes it almost inevitable that the EU is becoming a more unified actor within WHO negotiations. At the same time, it points to limitations impeding the EU's performance that are to be taken into account, notably EU member states being cautious about ceding competences to the EU on health issues, them having widely diverging preferences on issues such as reproductive rights, and not fully trusting the European Commission to take over external representation in WHO negotiations.
This text offers a personal view on what Europe is doing and thinking about global health and where there might be further opportunity for transatlantic collaboration. It is based mainly on my experience as vice director and head of international affairs of the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (corresponding to an assistant secretary for international affairs of the ministry of health) and my two-month sabbatical as a visiting fellow with the CSIS Global Health Policy Center in November / December 2008.
I am pleased to welcome you to this ‘transition process' website, which is one element of a formal and informal process I am initiating to explore ways of adapting the WHO Regional Office for Europe to the changing European environment. I am launching this site to share with you my vision for the WHO European Office and, importantly, to hear your views and suggestions about this vision and a number of priority action issues.
Following the launch of the European Commission's Open Consultation on the EU Role in Global Health, I sat down with Dr. Juan Garay to find out more about the Commission's work toward a Communication on global health.
Drafting EU policy is a complicated process, and central to this process is active engagement with European citizens and relevent stakeholders. To accomplish this the Commission holds open consultations based on issue papers that are designed to identify the key areas and concerns which the future policy should address.
Dr. Garay is health team coordinator at the European Commission's Directorate General for Development Cooperation, also known as DG DEV, and he is one of the authors of the recent Issue Paper on the EU Role in Global Health -- a collaborative effort with his colleagues in the Commission's directorates for health as well as research. We discussed why a policy on the EU role in global health is necessary at present, how the Lisbon Treaty will impact the EU's role as a global health actor and what exactly Dr. Garay hopes to accomplish with this issue paper.
Global Health Europe sat down with Dr. Nick Banatvala just following the launch of the European Commission's open consultation on the EU Role in Global Health. We discussed his views of the added value the EU brings as a global health actor and the challenges that his team faced in the UK when they where drafting their across government strategy for global health.
Shortly after Mrs Zsuzsanna Jakab was confirmed as the Regional Director Elect for the World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe, she sat with Global Health Europe to discuss how the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), a new agency of the European Union for which she was Director for its first 5 years, was performing in the recent H1N1 pandemic. She also shares her insights on the role of the EU within the greater European Region and her wishes for the EU's new policy on the EU Role in Global Health.