Gastein, Europe and the world

What can Europe and the world learn from the COVID-19 pandemic? How can we show renewed strength and resilience as we emerge and ensure that health continues to be given the necessary significance within society? The European Health Forum Gastein 2021 aims to provide answers to these questions.

Text: Dietmar Schobel

“The European Health Forum Gastein brings together people from politics and administration, the business sector, academia and civil society. It provides participants with the time and space needed to introduce and discuss ideas and innovations for more health for all, and also to test their viability,” remarks Clemens Martin Auer, Special Envoy for Health for the Austrian Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection and President of the European Health Forum Gastein (EHFG), in a summary of the conference concept. The inspiration and insights gained at Gastein are ideally translated into activities on a national, European and global level when the participants return to their individual countries and institutions.

Also during the conference itself, groups of participants have been known to take initial practical steps towards implementing new ideas. For example, at EHFG 2020 this was the case with the Oslo Medicines Initiative, which was launched by the Norwegian Ministry of Health and Care Services and the Regional Office for Europe of the World Health Organization (WHO). The aim of the initiative is to enable access to effective, novel, high-priced medicines for a greater number of people through better cooperation between the public and private sectors. The level of access to innovative medicines still differs massively: it takes one or two years longer for many of these medicines to reach poorer countries compared to richer ones, and it is even likely that some will not be available at all. Reports on the initial progress of the Oslo Medicines Initiative will be presented at the EHFG 2021.

Portrait of Clemens Martin Auer
Clemens Martin Auer, President of the EHFG, Photo: EHFG

Giving renewed strength to multilateral cooperation

“Rise like a phoenix – Health at the heart of a resilient future for Europe” is the main theme of the EHFG 2021. But what exactly does that mean? “The COVID-19 pandemic been a reminder of the urgent necessity for multilaterial cooperation in health policies because viruses do not stop at national borders. Therefore, our main theme makes special reference to the fact that we will require more and better international cooperation in future. But unfortunately, this has grown increasingly weaker over the past years and decades,” responds Clemens Martin Auer. “Specifically, it also considers how we can achieve a European Health Union and a global pandemic agreement which requires better financing for the World Health Organization (WHO).”

Viruses do not stop at national borders.


With this in mind, the title “A new era for multilateralism in health” was chosen for Plenary 1 on the first day of EHFG 2021, Monday 27th September. “Co-creating a healthier Europe”, taking place as an event in the framework of the Conference on the Future of Europe is the focus of Plenary 2 on Wednesday 29th September. On Friday 1 October, the final day of this year’s EHFG, Plenary 3 will discuss “A new social contract for a resilient recovery”. The participants will work together to discuss and develop how a new agreement between all with the aim of protecting and furthering the common good can be prepared in a way that lays the foundation for the systemic reforms and responses that are urgently needed right now in order to build a more resilient and sustainable future.

Europe’s leading health policy conference

Portrait of Dorli Kahr-Gottlieb, EHFG Secretary General
Dorli Kahr-Gottlieb, EHFG Secretary General, Photo: EHFG

“Strengthening health systems worldwide”, “Towards a Beating Cardiovascular Disease Plan for Europe” and “Partnerships for a sustainable and green future” are just some of the many remarkable sessions planned for EHFG 2021. Distinguished speakers and participants such as Sandra Gallina, Director-General, European Commission Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety, Hans Kluge, Regional Director for Europe, World Health Organization and the health ministers of Austria, Slovenia and Latvia Wolfgang Mückstein, Janez Poklukar and Daniels Pavluts will again ensure that the EHFG remains the leading health policy conference in Europe. As in the previous year, the event will take place online. “There are pros and cons,” says Dorli Kahr-Gottlieb, EHFG Secretary General, who is responsible for the overall management of the conference with a team of 10 colleagues. “On the one hand, we attracted 900 online participants last year – compared to the 600 people who generally participate in the onsite conference in Gastein. On the other hand, it goes without saying that the unique atmosphere and personal networking enjoyed in the Gastein Valley are second to none.”

In 2022 we hope to be welcoming our participants to the Gastein Valley again.


Nevertheless, innovative digital conference formats will again allow the virtual forum in 2021 to recreate the meeting in Gastein as much as possible. Various opportunities for online networking and on-screen social activities such as yoga breaks and a digital social evening event will be part of this. And what about the European Health Forum Gastein 2022? “We hope to be welcoming our participants to the Gastein Valley again,” Dorli Kahr-Gottlieb says confidently.