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Follow the Leader! The EU as a Global Health Actor after the Negotiation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control

Elisabet Ruiz Cairó


This paper examines the role of the European Union as a global health actor. While it has traditionally been seen as an economic power, there is a tendency for the Union to play an increasing role at the global level in areas that do not correspond to this economic dimension as the example of public health illustrates.

Taking the negotiation of the FCTC as a starting point, the paper puts forward the capacity of the Union to develop its leadership in an area where its competence was initially somehow disputed. The challenges and the results of the negotiations are examined and the strong commitment of the European Union towards the implementation of the FCTC is analysed. It is argued that this experience should be exported to the broader field of public health. While a first experience in a tobacco-control convention is an important step, it is considered that the European Union should seek further responsibilities. As the Union is willing to have a greater influence at the global level, one of its goals should be to become a public health leader. An enhanced role at the World Health Organization could be considered. The Union could also pursue the negotiation of other international conventions in the field of public health and the fight against obesity seems like an area where the European Union could exercise its leadership and export its standards.

The analysis carried out through this paper leads to the conclusion that the EU can become a normative power in the field of public health by not only participating in international settings as a mere observer but also by adopting the role of a norm-shaper and, eventually, even a norm-maker.


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