The meeting focussed on draft conclusions concerning the coordination of EU member states in decision-making processes at the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The WHO will resume its 73rd World Health Assembly (WHA) between 9 and 14 November; the WHA is the main decision-making body at the World Health Organisation and it usually brings together delegations from all 194 member states to Geneva, Switzerland, once a year, to set the WHO’s agenda, decide upon strategies, appoint senior staff and approve the organisation’s finances. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s WHA started in May as a virtual-only conference with a limited agenda but will resume in November.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of an international coordinating body like the WHO, it has also highlighted the need for reforms at the 72-year-old institution. Altogether EU member states, alongside the United Kingdom, are the largest donors to the WHO. Twenty-seven EU states will contribute around 228 million dollars in assessed contributions to the WHO’s 2020-2021 budget. The EU will also donate further funds.

Jens Spahn speaks before the EPSCO Health

The videoconference also offered EU health ministers an opportunity to talk about how best to coordinate cross-border travel and free movement - and any necessary restrictions - within Europe during the pandemic. EU member states have already agreed to take a common approach to travel on the continent, including sharing comparable data and developing common criteria for mapping risk. Most recently, a common gateway was set up for EU contact tracing and warning apps.

Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the EU has placed special emphasis on improving pan-European crisis management, the sharing of health data and ensuring the supply of medical products, like personal protective equipment and, eventually, the procurement and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine.