Health – a cross-border concern

Scientists at work
Scientists at work © FDFA, Presence Switzerland

Health and the health protection of citizens are main priorities both in Switzerland and in the EU. Through its health policy, the EU aims to prevent diseases, promote a healthier lifestyle and protect people from health risks. Thus, it pursues the same objectives as Switzerland’s health policy.

Growing cross-border flows of people and freight are increasing health risks such as flu pandemics, food crises, defective medical products or dangerous toys for Switzerland as well. These challenges can only be efficiently contained and combated in cooperation with our neighboring countries and the EU.

Common platform for cross-border heath issues

In the EU, the member states are responsible for the organisation and provision of their national health-care services. The EU complements their work by bringing the member states together and creating common platforms to deal with cross-border health care issues. Examples of issues which are discussed at EU level include the provision of safe and affordable medicines and medical devices, tobacco prevention, cross-border healthcare, antimicrobial resistance and the fight against cancer. The member states can discuss these issues and consequently find a better way to collectively tackle mutual health-care problems.

In addition to risk assessment agencies, the EU has efficient early warning and rapid alert systems. One of these systems is for example the RASFF (Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed). Thanks to this system, the EU member states and the EU Commission can share information on food products that are hazardous to health, and at the same time rapidly withdraw defective products from the market, as in the case of toxic residues or salmonella in food.

To extend cooperation with the EU in these areas and to ensure full participation in its coordination systems, the Federal Council adopted in 2008 a negotiating mandate with the EU in the food safety and public heath areas, among others. These negotiations are now closed at a technical level and the agreement is ready to be signed. However, the EU would first like to make progress on the institutional agreement with Switzerland before signing new agreements.

Switzerland monitors EU policy in the public health, pharmaceuticals and medicinal products sectors as well as in the areas of food and product safety. As a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), Switzerland also participates as an observer in the ad-hoc working groups of the European Economic Area (EEA).