From cross-border healthcare to pharmaceutical regulation, fiscal policies to COVID-19, global interactions to Brexit, the reach of European Union (EU) health law and policy continues to evolve, generating more and more questions about the role of the EU, effects on Member States and other countries’ healthcare systems, and interactions with entities as diverse as the Council of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights and the World Health Organization.

Building on discussions among lawyers and political scientists from UACES panels and the recent “EU Health Law and Policy” project

Health in Europe is…

A virtual discussion forum hosted by the Centre for Law and Society, Lancaster Law School (UK) 

All discussions run between 12pm and 1pm (UK time) via Teams, unless otherwise indicated. 

NB – you need to register via the links below to have access to the discussion! Teams invites will be sent to those who have registered approx. 24-48 hours before the event.

If you would like to attend, present, or be added to the mailing list, please email Dr Mary Guy (m.guy2@lancaster.ac.uk).


Next Health in Europe is Wednesday 26 January 2002, 12pm (UK)… 

                                                                  Dr Elisabet Ruiz Cairó (Geneva)                                                                                                              

How can we strengthen the promotion of public health in EU external relations?       

Article 168 (3) TFEU requires the European Union to cooperate with third countries and international organisations in the sphere of public health, and the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of bold international cooperation in this field. The European Union plays an increasingly significant role as a global health actor and it has successfully promoted public health in a number of areas. The participation of the Union in the negotiation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and its Protocol provides a useful illustration in this regard. However, the role of the European Union as a global health actor is challenged by two main constrains. Internally, the Union’s role in global health is limited by the principle of conferral. The European Union essentially has support powers in public health under Article 168 TFEU. To circumvent this limit, it acts on the basis of alternative legal bases, notably the internal market and the environmental policy. This approach leads to a fragmented legislative activity, under which some public health concerns are extensively regulated whereas others are not. Externally, the Union’s role in global health is limited by the rules of international organisations and agreements, which do not systematically accept regional organisations as parties. The European Union thus holds a variety of statuses in health-related international organisations and agreements, ranging from full member to observer with several possibilities in between. The above-mentioned limitations hinder the development of a consistent and comprehensive external public health action. Public health is essentially approached on a case-by-case basis, which damages the role of the Union as a global actor. It is thus necessary to explore measures that could enhance the EU external public health action.

The following proposals may contribute to that goal:

1. Enhancing EU public health competences under Article 168 TFEU. Although unlikely in the current circumstances, previous public health crises have led to a strengthening of this provision.

2. Strengthening the status of the European Union in health-related international organisations and agreements. The future negotiation of an International Pandemic Treaty could contribute to this goal.

3. Clarifying the relationship between public health and EU principles and objectives. This proposal could be implemented through an inclusion of public health among the objectives of the EU external action (Article 21 TEU) and the definition of some guiding principles for all EU public health actions.

4. Reinforcing the linkages between the different provisions related to public health matters in the Treaties, notably Articles 9 and 168 TFEU and Article 35 of the Charter.

Although EU public health is increasingly relevant and the role of the Union in global health is emerging as an essential feature of this policy, a stronger and more comprehensive action still needs to be built. The COVID-19 pandemic provides the perfect opportunity to bring some fundamental changes to this area and a significant evolution is expected in the coming years.

For more information on this topic, see E. RUIZ CAIRÓ, The Promotion of Public Health in EU External Relations (Series in European Law No 35, Schulthess, Zürich 2021), 508 p.

Health in Europe Winter-Spring 2022

Date/Time Speaker(s) Title Registration 

Wednesday 26 January 2022 

12pm (UK)

Dr Elisabet Ruiz Cairo (Geneva) How can we strengthen the promotion of public health in EU external relations? Register here

Wednesday 23 February 2022

12pm (UK)

Dr Eleanor Brooks (Edinburgh) EU health policy in the aftermath of Covid-19: Neofunctionalism and crisis-driven integration Register here

Wednesday 23 March 2022

12pm (UK)

Professor Tamara Hervey (City) and Dr Sabrina Röttger-Wirtz (Maastricht) Lex-Atlas Covid-19: The European Union Register here