Brussels, 12 June 2002
The European Commission and the World Health Organisation (WHO) agreed to tighten cooperation in research on communicable diseases during a series of high-level consultations in Brussels on 6 June.
Commissioners Philippe Busquin (research), David Byrne (health and consumer protection), Pascal Lamy (trade) and Poul Nielson (development and humanitarian aid) discussed joint strategies to address a wide range of health issues, including health research, communicable diseases, the environment and food safety with WHO Director-General Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland.
Commissioner Byrne, who chaired the meetings, said: 'The Commission and the WHO both have roles to play, and working together has a multiplying effect. We share goals, better health for all, we are natural allies and it makes sense to pursue these objectives together.'
At their second high-level meeting, Commissioners Busquin, Nielson and Lamy discussed the ongoing cooperation between the EU and the WHO on the Programme for Action on Communicable Diseases in developing countries with Dr Brundtland. Both partners agreed to work towards increasing Official Development Assistance (ODA) in the area. At present, just 7.4 per cent of ODA is targeted towards health.
Commissioner Busquin and Dr Brundtland also discussed the possibility of WHO participation in health-related research priorities within the forthcoming Sixth Framework programme for research, particularly the priority themes on genomics and biotechnology for health, policy support and international co-operation. Dr Brundtland agreed that the WHO can help to raise awareness of developing countries on cooperation opportunities in the Europe-Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership programme (EDCTP), to which the EU will contribute 200 million euro.
Mr Busquin underlined that this project will be the largest of its kind ever funded by the EU. He welcomed WHO's offer of technical advice and support in establishing the programme and renewed the Commission's invitation to the WHO to join as a full partner. Mr Busquin and Dr Brundtland also agreed to build more systematic cooperation, starting with a regular exchange of information on priorities and actions.
The new partnership approach between the Commission and the WHO stems from an 'exchange of letters' between the WHO and the European Commission in December 2000 This exchange identified various priority areas, including health information, communicable diseases, tobacco, mental health, the environment and health, nutrition and alcohol where cooperation would be useful.
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