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.
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.