The 2010 European Union (EU) Commission Communication and the EU Council Conclusions on the EU’s role in global health were a milestone in the EU’s commitments to global health. However, neither the strategic guidance through these documents, nor the fact that the EU and its Member States contribute significantly to development assistance for health seem to have systematically translated into determined and sustained political action. Since the year 2010, the global situation as well as the environment in global health have changed substantially and a new political environment in the EU and its Member States has emerged. The new incoming Commission appears to emphasise a geopolitical perspective on external affairs of the EU (from neighbourhood policy to partnerships) that has already been started to some extent by the previous Commission. The likely exit of the United Kingdom from the EU looms as a source of great uncertainty over all those developments.
In this working paper, Ilona Kickbusch and Christian Franz argue that there is an urgent need to reframe and refocus the EU’s role in global health. Rooted firmly in the European values, norms, and its commitment to human rights, the Member States should work towards a “synergistic” strategy for global health that takes into account three major questions: (1) How can EU global health policy deliver on improving and protecting the health and wellbeing of the people living in the EU through strengthening global health cooperation? (2) Where can global health policy contribute to the strategic goals of the EU and its Member States? (3) How can global health policy support the EU and Member States to fulfill the Sustainable Development Goals and global commitments (both, outside and within the EU)? In close cooperation with the incoming EU Commission, Member States should answer these questions and – based on new Council Conclusions – adjust institutions and instruments, policy priorities, EU coordination processes, and forge new partnerships in global health. Ilona Kickbusch and Christian Franz argue that such a comprehensive approach will allow the EU to take a global leadership role in global health and contribute to the creation of global goods supporting the values of the Union.