The European Commission is actively involved in the work of the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH, founded as OIE) and organises the input from EU Member States.
Common EU positions
The Commission is responsible for coordinating the position of the 27 Member States of the European Union (EU) on issues discussed at WOAH and ensures that the EU Member States speak with one voice at WOAH.
In the areas of animal health, animal welfare and animal production food safety covered by WOAH, the Commission shares the competence with the Member States on the basis of the level of harmonisation of the relevant EU legislation. The Commission and the EU Member States elaborate common EU comment and position papers on issues discussed at WOAH.
Relations between the Commission and WOAH
WOAH is an intergovernmental organisation responsible for improving animal health worldwide. It was established in 1924 in Paris as Office international des epizooties and currently has 182 member countries. All EU Member States are members of WOAH. The European Commission has formal observer status, which was established by an exchange of letters in 2004 ( 2004/C 215/03 - 2004/C 215/04). In 2011, the Commission and WOAH concluded a Memorandum of Understanding concerning their general relations ( 2011/C 241/1).
WOAH is recognised as a reference organisation by the World Trade Organization ( WTO) for international standards relating to animal health and zoonoses. The WTO Agreement on the application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement) considers that WTO members applying WOAH Standards meet their obligations under this Agreement.
WOAH’s primary objective is to protect the health of animals and to ensure a safe and fair trade in animals and animal products worldwide, by ensuring transparency in the global animal disease situation and by publishing health standards for international trade. It also sets guidelines for animal welfare although this mandate does not fall under the WTO SPS agreement.
The World Assembly of Delegates adopts standards, guidelines and recommendations that are prepared by elected Specialist Commissions and by Working Groups bringing together internationally renowned scientists and experts from around the world. The European Commission contributes to the standard setting work of WOAH.
The EU, via the European Commission and individual Member States, is a major contributor to WOAH’s World Animal Health and Welfare Fund (WAHWF). The Commission is part of the WAHWF Advisory Committee and regularly supports WOAH Global Conferences and Regional capacity building seminars, as well as projects and activities in Europe and elsewhere to improve the animal health and animal welfare situation, particularly in neighbouring countries and regions. Recent examples include the Mediterranean Animal Health network ( REMESA), the WOAH Regional Platform on animal welfare for Europe, the PAN-SPSO project in Africa, the Better Training for Safer Food project in Africa and the various projects in Asia.
WOAH, in a joint initiative with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations ( FAO), is responsible for the Global Framework for the progressive control of Transboundary Animal Diseases ( GF-TADs). In the GF-TADs for Europe Regional Steering Committee, the current President is the Commission’s Director for Veterinary and International Affairs and WOAH Contact Point. The Commission also takes part in the annual Global Steering Committee meetings of the GF-TADs.