Health Cooperation with the EU and in the European Economic Area

Published under: Stoltenberg's 2nd Government

Publisher Ministry of Health and Care Services

Through the European Economic Area (EEA) Norway, although not a member of the European Union, cooperates closely with the EU and its member states in public health and food safety matters.

The Norwegian Ministry of Health and Care Services and its subordinate institutions (the Norwegian Food Safety Authority, the Norwegian Medicines Agency, the Directorate for Health and the National Institute of Public Health) are involved in a variety of activities related to EU/EEA issues. The main activities involve:

Implementation of the European internal market rules

Through Norway's participation in the internal market of the European Union, a large number of EU Acts are implemented in Norwegian legislation in the following areas:

  • Food and food safety
  • Tobacco
  • Medicinal products
  • Cosmetics
  • Medical equipment
  • Blood, cells and tissue
  • Mutual recognition of occupational qualifications for health personnel

Particularly in the field of food safety a large number of EU Acts (Directives, Regulations and Decisions) are implemented annually.

In total, approximately 60-100 Acts are implemented annually within the sphere of responsibility of the Ministry of Health and Care Services. The EEA agreement allows civil servants/experts from the Ministry and its subordinate institutions to participate in the working groups shaping the draft proposals for new or revised Acts.

Cooperation in areas outside the scope of the Internal Market

The so-called Public Health Article in the EU treaty (article 152) states that health policies, including service level, organising and financing, is the responsibility of each Member State. However, the Article also states that the countries, if they so decide, can initiate voluntary cooperation on cooperation in areas of common concern in the field of health policy. The development in the EU is characterised by an increasing cooperation on this basis. Main areas for cooperation involving Norwegian health authorities include: 

The Health Programme 2008-13: By paying an annual fee, Norway participates in the Health Programme. This involves participation in working groups and projects. Through the projects expert networks between the participating countries have developed.

Health Preparedness: The EU countries have established an extensive cooperation to be well prepared for cross-border outbreaks of communicable diseases and possible terror acts involving the use of biological or chemical weapens

Cross-border patient mobility: The EC Court has through a number of rulings established the rights of EU/EEA patients to receive reimbursement from their home country for the covering of certain health services abroad. The EU countries have established a cooperation to consider the practical implications of these patients' rights.  

Participation in EU Agencies

In a number of policy areas, the EU has established Agencies. These cover areas central to the EU cooperation, and shall function as knowledge centres in particular policy areas. The Agencies shall perform technical/scientific analysis and recommend the EU Commission on issues related to their tasks. Norway participates in four Agencies in the health area:

  • European Medicines Agency (EMEA), London
  • European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), Stockholm
  • European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), Lisbon
  • European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), Parma