In the run-up to the Seventy-fifth World Health Assembly starting on Sunday (22 May), the European Commission aims to align member state positions and ensure the EU-wide agreements are translated into WHO policies.
The first in-person assembly since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic has the theme of “Health for peace, peace for health.”
The Assembly is the decision-making body of the World Health Organisation, and its main objective is to determine the WHO policies, appoint the director-general, supervise financial policies, and review and approve the proposed programme budget.
Delegations from all WHO member states attend it, and while EU member states are members, the European Union is not a member of WHO.
The French EU Council presidency is responsible for presenting 11 statements on behalf of EU member states on the key agenda items. At the same time, the Commission is trying to align Commission’s and EU member states’ positions.
“Regular coordination meetings and consultations before and during the assembly have been and will be ensuring close coordination between EU and member states and the services of the Commission in developing those joint statements,” said Stefan Schreck, adviser at DG Sante on Monday (16 May), during the health committee (ENVI)’s meeting.
He continued: “what we try to do is to ensure that the policy aims which have been agreed at the EU level will also be translated into all the instruments of WHO”.
Schreck added that consultations on several agenda items are ongoing and likely finish just before the assembly.
Overall, 28 agenda items with over 50 subitems will be addressed during the assembly, including pandemic and health emergency prevention, preparedness and response and strengthening WHO.
The new pandemic agreement will not be on this year’s agenda, as it is set for next year, waiting for the progress report of the intergovernmental negotiating body.
It is expected that the assembly will welcome the working group’s report on strengthening WHO preparedness and response to health emergencies.
Building and strengthening systems and tools to help prevent and prepare for future health emergencies more effectively is also highlighted, and collective investment in global, regional, and national health emergency prevention, preparedness and response, including adequate and sustainable financing for WHO.
The working group on sustainable financing will submit for formal adoption membership fee rise to 50% by 2028-29.
Schreck said the Commission also considers “the improvement of the working methods of WHO absolutely necessary. And we will always follow that in the consultations which we have with the EU member states before the EU position is actually agreed”.
Other items on the agenda
The health emergency situation in Ukraine will be also discussed
“The EU will continue working with Ukraine and like-minded countries on the draft resolution to be submitted to the World Health Assembly aiming for the fine balance here between a strong response to the Russian aggression, and also maximum support from the wider WHO membership”.
Other items on the agenda cover all scope of the health world, from clinical trials to health promotion and well-being, communicable and non-communicable diseases, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
DG Sante’s Schreck said that “the EU and its 27 member states in their joint statements will welcome the call for high standards for clinical trials as this is particularly important in times of increasing mistrust of people on safety and efficacy in particular of vaccines”.
He added that as new legislation on clinical trials was approved in the EU, “the member states would like to avoid overlaps”.
“So, therefore, there is actually a reserve on the whole text until the full text is available,” he said.
A joint approach is taken also regarding the standardisation of Global Medical Device Nomenclature (GMDN). Schreck said that the EU and its member states “will support in their joint statements WHO putting forward a plan on the development of a WHO global nomenclature of medical devices in consultation with member states”.