Written by Clare Ferguson with Tom Smith, Updated on 5 June 2020
Throughout the coronavirus crisis, the European Union (EU) and its Member States have implemented a number of radical measures to combat the spread of the virus and, more recently, to begin the process of reopening economies and returning to normal life. As the crisis has developed, it has introduced a variety of new challenges that have required quick and effective resolutions. In response to these challenges, the European Parliamentary Research Service has published a number of research papers on a wide range of subjects relevant to the coronavirus crisis.
The initial spread of the novel coronavirus rapidly intensified, with the World Health Organization designating the virus as a pandemic just a few months after the initial outbreak, leading to a need for emergency public health measures to save lives across the world. In response to this initial problem, the EU stepped in to play a coordinating role, complementing national policies to help countries face common challenges, such as a lack of sufficient healthcare organisation and provision, so that each Member State was better prepared for the healthcare challenges posed by the virus.
In March, following a special meeting by videoconference of the Heads of State or Government of the 27 EU Member States, the EU identified four specific priorities for its coronavirus response strategy:
- Limiting the spread of the virus, including assessing the risk and closing external borders so that internal borders can remain open to allow the single market to function.
- Ensuring the provision of medical equipment by ramping up production of medical devices, issuing calls for production of medical equipment, and negotiating new supplies.
- Helping researchers to find a vaccine quickly, through existing research programmes
- Aiding EU Member States to weather the social and economic impact of the pandemic.
In response to the designation of these four priorities, the EU worked quickly to deal with each one effectively. To limit the spread of the virus, the EU closed its borders to non-essential travel whilst introducing green lanes to enable essential goods to continue to move through the EU. To ensure Member States were able to access medical equipment, the EU created the first ever RescEU stockpile of medical equipment such as ventilators and protective masks, enabling Member States facing equipment shortages to quickly procure the supplies they needed. In terms of research, the EU’s Horizon 2020 research programme is funding 18 research programmes and 151 research teams across Europe, with researchers working on a variety of tasks, such as rapid point-of-care diagnostic tests and the development of vaccines and new treatments.An initial €45 million was committed to the project, whilst on 19 May 2020, a further €122 million was allocated to the programme. The EU has also worked to provide economic support to EU Member States, underlined by the recently revised proposal for the EU multiannual financial framework, including a €750 billion fiscal stimulus to enable Member States to cope with the economic impact of coronavirus (€500 billion in grants and €250 billion in loans), along with other flexibility measures and monetary stimulus.
As the focus now turns to the issue of safely reopening European economies, the EU has proposed a number of ideas that would enable the safe resumption of travel within the EU. The proposals argue for a common EU approach to lifting travel restrictions, which would provide a much-needed boost to the travel industry, a key component of the European economy.
As well as providing support on issues such as healthcare and the economy, the EU has also worked to combat the Covid-19 ‘infodemic’ that has accompanied the pandemic. EU citizens need to be able to trust the information they receive on such a vital issue, and the EU has provided a number of resources which help to prevent the dissemination of such harmful disinformation, ensuring that EU citizens are able to distinguish between what is true and what is not. Support has also been strengthened for the Health Security Committee to provide aligned information throughout the EU on the virus.
EPRS publications on the topic include:
On the impact of the crisis and the EU’s response:
- Education in isolation in the pandemic, following the path of Isaac Newton
- Demography on the European agenda: Strategies for tackling demographic decline
- Food trade and food security in the coronavirus pandemic
- EU export authorisation scheme for personal protection equipment
- How digital technology is easing the burden of confinement
- EU budgetary and financial response to the coronavirus crisis
- Coronavirus and international sanctions: Should sanctions be eased during the pandemic?
- Exceptional coronavirus support measures to benefit EU regions
- States of emergency in response to the coronavirus crisis: Situation in certain Member States II
- Coronavirus: Transport support package
- World Health Organization: Is it fit for purpose?
- Macro-financial assistance to enlargement and neighbourhood partners in the coronavirus crisis
- Establishing an MFF contingency plan
- Mobility, transport and coronavirus
- EU shipping and ports facing coronavirus
- Coronavirus and the cost of non-Europe: An analysis of the economic benefits of common European action
- EU research and innovation programmes in the fight against coronavirus
- The impact of coronavirus on media freedom
- Coronavirus in Africa: A crisis with multiple impacts
- China’s democratic neighbours and coronavirus: Protecting populations without lockdowns
- EU support for artists and the cultural sector during the coronavirus crisis
- Coronavirus and the trade in wildlife
- States of emergency in response to the coronavirus crisis: Situation in certain Member States
- Coronavirus and the European film industry
- Addressing shortages of medicines
- The role of the armed forces in the fight against coronavirus
- Coronavirus crisis support for EU farmers
- State aid and the pandemic: How State aid can back coronavirus economic support measures
- Australia’s restrictions on movement in response to the coronavirus pandemic
- Canada: Coronavirus movement restrictions and quarantine
- Developing a pandemic emergency purchase programme: Unconventional monetary policy to tackle the coronavirus crisis
- US federal and state travel limits and quarantine measures
- Parliaments in emergency mode: How Member States’ parliaments are continuing with business during the pandemic
- Coronavirus and the world of work
- Tackling the coronavirus outbreak: Impact on asylum-seekers in the EU
- Russia and the coronavirus
- EU imports and exports of medical equipment
- Tracking mobile devices to fight coronavirus
- Added value of a common EU response to the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic
- European Green Deal Investment Plan: Main elements and possible impact of the coronavirus pandemic
- The EU’s global response to coronavirus
- Temporary support to mitigate unemployment risks in an emergency (SURE)
- The EU’s 2020 budget: response to the coronavirus epidemic (16 April plenary session)
- Amendment of the 2014-2020 MFF regulation. Using the global margin for commitments to finance measures in the healthcare sector under the Emergency Support Instrument (16 April plenary session)
- Amending Budget No 1/2020: Support to Greece to face migration pressure, measures to fight coronavirus and reconstruction assistance to Albania (16 April plenary session)
- Amending Budget No 2/2020: Emergency support to the health sector to respond to the coronavirus outbreak (16 April plenary session)
- Support for the fishing and aquaculture sectors in the coronavirus crisis (16 April plenary session)
- Specific flexibility measures for ESI funds in response to the coronavirus outbreak (16 April plenary session)
- The EU’s response to coronavirus in its neighbourhood and beyond
- Impact of coronavirus on energy markets
- Impact of the coronavirus crisis on climate action and the European Green Deal
- Towards a joint European approach on vaccination
- Countering the health ‘infodemic’
- Covid-19 foreign influence campaigns: Europe and the global battle of narratives
- Covid-19 and the tourism sector
- Covid-19’s impact on human rights outside the EU
- EU 27 support for national short-time work schemes
- Global and regional governance: Initial response to the Covid-19 pandemic
- Protecting the EU agri-food supply chain in the face of Covid-19
- Joint debt instruments: A recurrent proposal to strengthen economic and monetary union
- Repatriation of EU citizens during the Covid-19 crisis: The role of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism
- The impact of coronavirus on Schengen borders
- The ‘general escape clause’ within the Stability and Growth Pact: Fiscal flexibility for severe economic shocks
- European Union response to coronavirus threat DE, FR
- Financial assistance for countries seriously affected by a major public health emergency (26 March plenary session)
- Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative (26 March plenary session)
- Suspension of EU rules on airport slot allocation (26 March plenary session)
- What can the EU do to alleviate the impact of the coronavirus crisis?
- Economic impact of epidemics and pandemics
- Temporary border controls in the Schengen area
- Addressing health inequalities in the European Union: Concepts, action, state of play
The EU’s institutions and Covid-19:
- Plenary round up – Brussels, May 2020
- Plenary round-up – Brussels, April 2020
- Outcome of the video-conference call of EU Heads of State or Government on 26 March 2020
- European Parliament Plenary Session – April 2020
- Plenary round-up – Brussels, March II 2020
- European Parliament Plenary Session – March II 2020
- Remote voting in the European Parliament and national parliaments
- The European Council, health policy and pandemics
- EUCO as crisis manager the Covid-19 pandemic: Similarities and differences to previous crises
- Outcome of the video-conference call of EU Heads of State or Government on 17 March 2020
What Think Tanks are thinking:
Links to recent commentaries and reports from international think tanks:
- What Think Tanks are thinking: The coronavirus crisis: Options for economic recovery
- What Think Tanks are thinking: Coronavirus: The world in limbo
- What Think Tanks are thinking: Which ‘new normal’ after coronavirus?
- What Think Tanks are thinking: Coronavirus: From lock-down to de-confinement, and beyond
- What Think Tanks are thinking: Coronavirus: Implications for the EU
- What Think Tanks are thinking: Coronavirus: Impact and challenges
- What Think Tanks are thinking: Policy responses to the coronavirus crisis
- What Think Tanks are thinking: Coronavirus – what should policy-makers do?
- What Think Tanks are thinking: Coronavirus: Impact and reaction
- What Think Tanks are thinking: Coronavirus: The latest
- What Think Tanks are thinking: Coronavirus (Covid-19)
European Science–Media Hub
Scientific aspects of the crisis, from the ESMH, set up by EPRS on behalf of Parliament’s Panel for the Future of Science and Technology (STOA) to build better links between science, policy-makers and the media.
- Covid-19: Boosting antiviral research
- What if smartphones could help contain Covid-19?
- What if we could fight coronavirus with artificial intelligence?
- Treatment optimisation in drug development
- European responses to the corona crisis – Part 3 (03 April to date – updated daily)
- European responses to the coronavirus – Part 2 (27 March to 03 April 2020)
- European responses to the coronavirus – Part 1 (12 to 27 March 2020)
- European Science Media Hub selected resources on coronavirus
- Interviews with leading virologists and health experts: Professor Alexander Kekule
- ESMH Press Review, special edition on coronavirus
- Misinformation in science: How false medical news on social media miseducates our society
- How to spot when news is fake
- European Science Media Hub interviews