Today, the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides, and the Turkish Minister of Health, Fahrettin Koca, met virtually for the first meeting of the EU-Turkey High-Level Dialogue on public health.
Serious threats to health, such as those due to infectious disease outbreaks or environmental factors, do not respect borders and require increased cross-border cooperation and coordination at the global level, as recently shown by the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the past months, both the EU and Turkey have experienced significant impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on their societies and their health systems.
In this context, Commissioner Kyriakides and Minister Koca exchanged views on how to enhance cooperation between the EU and Turkey on cross-border health threats as a clear priority, including in the short-term in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Issues related to the impact of climate change on public health also featured high on the agenda of the meeting, along with the EU's and Turkey's approaches to cancer prevention, treatment and care.
Commissioner Kyriakides and Minister Koca discussed opportunities to advance cooperation in these areas. They also discussed mental health issues as an area of common interest, in light of the impact on people's mental wellbeing taken by the pandemic. “COVID-19 showed beyond any doubt that public health transcends borders. International cooperation is key in this area and I welcome the discussions that we had today with Minister Koca on issues of common interest for the EU and Turkey, as well as the need to further advance our cooperation,” said Commissioner Kyriakides following the meeting.
Minister Koca expressed Turkey's readiness, as a candidate country, to cooperate and share best practices and experiences with the European Union. “While we are struggling with the pandemic that has affected the whole world for the last two years, we need to keep alive our commitment to combating global problems such as mental health, chronic diseases and the impact of climate change on health issues as well as their negative effect on economies,” said the Minister and added that he considers the High-Level Health Dialogue between the EU and Turkey as a great opportunity to support cooperation between the parties and Turkey's accession process.
Contacts will now continue at technical level between the European Commission and Turkey. The Commissioner and Minister agreed to take stock of the discussions and to continue to pursue their dialogue in 2022 with a view to bringing the European Union and Turkey closer in the area of health.