The Minister of Health Dr. Fahrettin Koca met with the European Union (EU) Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides via video conference as part of the High-Level Dialogue in Health. During the 1.5-hour meeting on four topics; the fight against COVID-19, the effects of climate change on health, the fight against cancer, and mental health issues were discussed.
Sharing details and comprehensive data on Turkey's fight against COVID-19, Koca said that they had supported 160 countries and 14 international organizations since the beginning of the pandemic, that they had donated approximately 2 million doses of vaccine to 11 countries, and that they were about to donate 10 million doses through the COVAX Facility. Stating that the fight against Covid-19 has not put pressure on Turkey's health system, Minister Koca said, “Turkey has been one of the most prepared countries for the pandemic from the very beginning and is ready to share its experience in this field with all parties”.
Reminding that Turkey is one of the countries with low greenhouse gas emissions within the scope of the impacts of climate change on health, Koca said that this figure was close to those of the best countries in the EU. Minister Koca outlined to his counterpart the projects and action plans that Turkey is carrying out in this area.
Minister Koca ended his speech by thanking the health workers:
“Although it is not included within the agenda, the last issue I would like to mention is our selfless healthcare workforce. As you know, 2021 has been declared as the International Year of Health and Care Workers by the World Health Organization upon my proposal. The great role assumed by hcw and their dedication are so vital and notable that it should always be at the forefront of our agenda. I would like to emphasize once again that I am grateful to them.”
At the end of the meeting, "the Declaration on High-Level Dialogue between the EU and Turkey in the Field of Health” was adopted. Full text of the statement:
Today, the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides, and the Turkish Minister of Health, Fahrettin Koca, held a video conference 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 EU and Turkey 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.