Inauguration of the Seat of the South-eastern European Health Network

Skopje, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 6-7 March 2013

The South-eastern European Health Network (SEEHN) is a regional initiative to improve public health. Founded in Sofia, Bulgaria in 2001, it serves both as a political forum where health ministers and senior officials from the Member States of the initiative can meet, as well as operating at a technical level with workshops focussed on technical activities and building regional cooperation on public health projects and sharing information, contacts and ideas through a formal network.

The European Health Forum Gastein signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the South-eastern European Health Network in Brussels in March 2012. The aim of the cooperation is to exchange information, lessons learned and best practice on mutually selected subjects through participation in meetings, conferences and symposia, and through joint work on the development or implementation of projects.

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the inauguration of the seat of the SEEHN secretariat in Skopje, in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Having just taken on responsibility for our cooperation with the SEEHN, this was a great opportunity for me to find out more about the region, the network and its activities, make new contacts and assess how we could take concrete steps to develop our cooperation.

After a welcome reception the previous evening, the day began with a visit to the new seat of the SEEHN Secretariat in Skopje city centre. The establishment of this seat marks an exciting period of transition for the network towards full ownership of the regional process for cooperation on health in the region. The group was then taken to the National Museum where we were given a tour providing an interesting insight into the eventful history of Macedonia and its relationship with other countries in the region.

Inauguration speeches were given by WHO Regional Director for Europe Zsuzsanna Jakab; Minister of Health for Macedonia Nikola Todorov; Assistant Minister of Health for Bosnia and Herzegovina and Chair of the SEEHN Executive Committee Dr. Goran Cerkez, and His Excellency the Ambassador of the Republic of Moldova Mr Alexander Prigorschi.

After a buffet lunch, Minister Todorov and Mrs Jakab presided over a round table meeting focussed on Health in all Policies, which had also been the subject of some of Mrs Jakab´s meetings earlier that afternoon with the President and Prime Minister of Macedonia. The Regional Director for Europe praised the SEEHN highly as a great “health diplomacy initiative” and said she thought the network had a unique future and place in terms of advancing health in Europe. There was widespread backing from organisations and ministries around the table for developing and supporting the activities of the network further, with some pledging to undertake specific health activities in the region. In terms of the support that the EHFG will offer, as a first step we hope to support a number of representatives from the SEEHN to attend the EHFG 2013, either as regular delegates or as young policymakers/researchers under the auspices of the Young Gastein initiative. We look forward to deepening our cooperation with the network this year and helping to promote its activities to improve health in the South-eastern European region.

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by Louise Boyle, Policy Officer for the European Health Forum Gastein

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