EL-CSID Policy brief 5: Health diplomacy of the European Union and its member states in Central Asia

5 / 2018
Neil Collins
Kristina Bekenova
Ainur Kagarmanova

In the soft power context, health is increasingly seen as an area that generates particular diplomatic benefits because it is ostensibly non-political and can bring both immediate and long-term advantages equally to the donor and the recipient country. Since the European Union’s role in the international affairs is increasing, the EU is expected to play a central role in global health guided by the principles of solidarity, i.e. to provide an equitable and universal access to quality health services. 

Some commentators point to a lack of coherence and coordination between EU health and other policies[1]. Also, ambiguities do exist about the scope of national and European competencies in the area of health policy[2]. The role of the smaller member states may be unusually significant as they "use the health arena to demonstrate their commitment to the multilateral systems that provide them with a voice and allow them a leading role on the global stage”[3]. Thus, health diplomacy offers an intriguing insight into the dynamics in the EU’s approaches to Central Asia, the region that is incrementally becoming of interest to Europe.

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[1]Rollet, V. & Chang, P. (2013). “Is the European Union a global health actor? An analysis of its capacities, involvement and challenges”, European Foreign Affairs Review, vol. 18, no. 3: pp. 309-328.

[2]Guy, M. & Sauter, W. (2016). The history and scope of EU health law and policy(Working Paper no. 16-2). University of East Anglia: Centre for Competition Policy.

[3]Kickbusch, I. (2013). “21st century health diplomacy: A new relationship between foreign policy and health”. In T. E. Novotny, I. Kickbusch & M. Told (eds.), 21st century global health diplomacy(Singapore: World Scientific): p. 14.