The German Council of the EU presidency has been pushing for the EU to take a leading role on World Health Organization (WHO) reform to strengthen the organization's capacity to respond to emergencies.
The German presidency of the Council of the EU hosted an informal meeting with EU health ministers on WHO reform on October 2, 2020, where EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides spoke on the need to change how Public Health Emergencies of International Concern are declared; to secure more sustainable funding for WHO, especially for emergencies; to de-link trade from travel restrictions; and for the EU to take a leading role by preparing a new WHO Resolution on the WHO’s global emergency preparedness and response. This follows European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen calling for EU leadership on WHO reform in her recent State of the European Union address.
Some EU ministers in the meeting supported increasing EU countries’ contributions to the WHO, while others expressed wanting to see the reforms prior to committing more funding. The German presidency is preparing a draft text outline of a potential EU vision for WHO reform that ministers will discuss in a formal Council meeting.
In Geneva, Germany and France had already presented unofficial recommendations for the WHO reforms. These included enabling the WHO greater access to areas where outbreaks occur, having a more nuanced method for declaring health emergencies, and giving the WHO more ability to assess, respond to, and report whether countries are following international rules on health emergencies.