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 cooperates on health issues with countries outside the EU to promote good health for all and support high-quality public health principles, standards and legislation.
It cooperates with:
- Non-EU countries around the world based on bilateral agreements
- Countries that are applying to become potential new EU members
- Neighbouring countries covered by the ‘European Neighbourhood Policy’.
Bilateral cooperation with non-EU countries around the world
The EU has bilateral partnership and cooperation agreements with many countries around the world. These agreements set a general framework for cooperation on public health. They also provide a basis for bilateral cooperation between individual EU countries and non-EU countries.
Where cooperation that is more technical is required, the European Commission (the Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety) may enter into agreements on particular sectors with national ministries.
Potential new EU members
The EU advises countries applying to join the EU (known as ‘candidate countries’) and others that may apply in future on EU health policy, and evaluates their progress towards EU health standards and policies. The relevant ‘chapters’ of membership negotiations are:
- Public health - chapter 28 on consumer and health protection
- Pharmaceuticals - chapter 1 on the free movement of goods.
The Commission supports and guides these countries and monitors progress in incorporating EU rules into their own legislation.
The Technical Assistance and Information Exchange Mechanism (TAIEX), and twinning programmes with EU national administrations, help the countries concerned bring their health standards into line with EU norms and set up or develop the institutions and administrative structures they need.
The European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) is the EU’s key foreign policy towards 16 of its neighbours.
It relies on bilateral action plans, agreed between the EU and each partner country, which set the agenda for reform over 3 to 5 years and - depending on each country’s priorities - may cover for example:
- Health and public health sector reform, and health policy dialogue
- Health information and knowledge
- Fight against communicable diseases and other health threats
Support includes for example, training programmes such as the Mediterranean Programme for Intervention Epidemiology Training (MediPIET), and cooperation with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
The Commission is working together closely with the 3 eastern European countries that have Association Agreements with the EU (Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia). It is helping them bring their public health rules closer to those of the EU and introduce general public health reforms.
There are also financial instruments to support the policy (TAIEX and twinning programmes).