How The EU Responding The Current COVID-19 Crises ?


The coronavirus is a newly discovered disease that affected the whole world deeply. Although first cases are heard from China in December 2020, in a globalised world the disease spread like a forest fire in the dry bush and declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organization after a short period of time.
This declaration means not only Asia and neighbour states, but also European continent become the resident of the virus. Except few African countries, nearly all states affected from the virus. Even in America, a state that is called like a superpower, deaths are unstoppable. If we look at Italy and Spain, they are the ones in the worst situation in European Continent.
When European Union members are infected, the European Commission is involved in the process inevitably, in order to coordinate the actions of the member states and avoid them to take contradictory measures that could undermine common efforts. In this way, president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen has proposed a set of measures and provide recommendations to member states.
These are include to ensure adequate supply of protective equipment and medical supplies across Europe, applying flexible fiscal rules, providing guidelines to member states on border measures, and restricting non-essential travels to the Union. Setting up a €37 billion Coronavirus Response Investment to help small businesses and health care sectors are also mentioned in the measures that declared in the Commission’s official website.
Although we see it as the main institution, the Commission is not working alone in this process. It has regular meetings with European Health Ministers, and Ministers of Interior Affairs. Because of the necessity of the science-based guidance, the Commission also launched a board of outstanding scientists including epidemiologists and virologists. Moreover, Crisis Coordination Committee, which is chaired by Janez Lenarčič in his role of European Emergency Response Coordinator, is also activated to synergise the action of related departments and services of the other EU agencies.
Another issue in the Coronavirus crisis is about what kind of role European Union has in the crisis management process. The EU has, in an ad hoc fashion, taken on the responsibility of protecting the security and safety of people from threats, ranging from the mad cow disease to terrorism, after 9/11 and bombings in Madrid and London (Ekengren M. & Gorenleer M.,2006).
Until now, it has successfully responded most of the crisis. For instance, it created the European Food and Safety Authority (EFSA) after recent food crises (e.g., BSE, Dioxin), and after Madrid bombings it is allowed for member states to take anti-terrorist measures nationally. Thus, we see that European Union takes the crisis manager role in cases where its ability can let it, and for other cases Union has law codes that allow states to take national/local- level actions.
When it comes to its capacities, they include systems monitoring societal vulnerabilities and preparing for emergencies as well as military and civil crisis management structures within the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) (Duke, 2002).
This Coronavirus crisis is mostly related with health, so the normal security-oriented policies are not relevant. In this crisis, European Union coordinates and finances repatriation of the people with EU Civil Protection Mechanism. Also, Commission tries to send financial aid, and protective materials to the member states with order of precedence.
The response of this crisis is important in terms of proving EU’s capability to both member states, and the world. After that disease left, citizens of the European Union will know in case of that kind of global pandemics, what role does EU have.
Their expectation will shape around the response that EU shows today. However, not only citizens but also national leaders will know to what extent they are responsible and to what extent they transfer their authorities to supranational instruments of the EU. In that case they will also know in any bad condition who should be blamed, them or the Union.
In the pandemic situations, regulations should be done in the areas of public health, transport, border control, internal markets, and trade. Border control within the EU seem harder than any other regulations, because one of the promises of the union was the free movement of people. Closing the borders in the Schengen area is necessary in order to halt the spread, and the states are agreed on that. Beyond politicians’ demands and acts, closing borders has a legal point of view too.
The Schengen regulation in any case does allow travel restrictions in 2 case of a threat to public health (Article 2(21) an 6(1e) of Regulation (EU) 2016/399). In that regard Austria stopped some trains from Italy where the number of deaths and infected people indicate the highest numbers. Although legal documents allow states to close their borders, many workers rely on the Schengen Agreement and works across borders.
In that situation, stopping this movement would lead a disruption in the economy. When we consider the first step of the European integration as the European Coal and Steel Community, we see that major expectation of the states shaped around the welfare. A damaged economy may cause states to question the solidarity of the union and another exits may seen. In the news we see especially Italy.
Although main reason is not economic, membership of the union is grilling in recent days. Deaths were so high, and the daily life was completely damaged in Italy. They blamed European Union for not helping them, and they are not wrong too. In order to prevent resentment, and actions that could be taken accordingly, president of the Commission admits the lack of attention of the Union to its Italy and apologised in front of cameras.
In the lights of the information given above, some people worry about the future of the Union. News are interpreted by different scholars differently. European states had to respond nationally in the initial periods of the pandemic crisis, but it does not seem permanent. Cooperation is the only wise solution for the recovery, rather than being alone and diseased with full sovereignty. It is a familiar paradox for EU member states.
They have the political authority and legitimacy to respond but, alone, they lack the capacity to do so ( Cooperation here do not mean solely following the liberal ideals, it is a rational solution for global crises like this Coronavirus pandemic. Without any exception, all of the crises had come with a price since the earlier time of the history.
Even Cold War finished because of the economic disruption of the one side of the warring states. In that situation, as the time flies and number of infected people decrease, states will shift their attention from health issues to the economic recovery again.
For now, health is the number one concern of the member states and if we consider that as the security issue, it is normal for them to act nationally. So, in this period, until the health is released from being a security issue, European Union may move toward the inter-governmental side of the spectrum. However, after economic recovery become the main concern, supra-national decisions may appear
The reason behind the national acts of the states on the security issues, lies on the different points of view on the definition of the security. In the history of the European Integration, it is familiar that states do not agree on the security issues easily that is why they did not initiate the European Union in the security field. Economy is a kind of subject that states can cooperate relatively easier when we compare the other fields.
Trade is advantageous for both of them, and recovery becomes faster when they work together. In here we also see that European Union has shifted intergovernmental side of the spectrum in some periods, and shifts supranational side of the spectrum in some.
Historical occasions decides its way. In that period, intergovernmental side seems likely, because of both the security issues that is mentioned above, and the president of the France Emmanuel Macron who is called as the second de Gaulle.
As the Gaulle adopts an intergovernmental European Union understanding with prioritizing its nationality, Macron is also thinks France at first. Thus, although EU institutes will help it member states, they have to learn to take care of themselves. In a world that affected from a disease globally, every state may prioritize its own interest. It should be better for every state to increase their self-sufficiency capabilities, at least for that period


Duke, S. (2002) The EU and Crisis Management: Developments and Prospects, EIPA,
Ekengren, Magnus & Groenleer, Martijn. (2006). European Union crisis management:
Challenges for research and practice. Int. J. of Emergency Management. 3. 83 – 90.
Dennison, S. & Dwarkin, A, & Shapiro, J. (2020, April 23), Pulling Through the coronavirus
together: European and international solutions to the pandemic, European Council on
Foreign Relations. Retrieved from

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