- New regulation aims to ensure unhindered flow of essential goods and workers even when countries have to resort to movement restrictions and border closures
- Three-tier alert system would enable the Commission to take measures specifically tailored to the threat level
- Using priority orders would help prevent supply problems of crisis-relevant products
European Parliament has approved its position on creating a new Single Market Emergency Instrument to ensure better management of any future international crises.
The SMEI regulation – that MEPs want to be renamed Internal Market Emergency and Resilience Act (IMERA regulation) – aims to create a general crisis management framework for the EU, based on the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. It intends to put in place a three-tier alert system that would enable the Commission to take measures specifically tailored to the threat level and to make sure it has all the information and tools for the EU to react to the crisis in a coherent and targeted manner.
Avoiding shortages of essential goods
One of the key aims of the regulation is to avoid shortages of crisis-relevant goods. MEPs agree the Commission should be allowed to offer companies priority orders that would take precedence over any other contract. Companies would be able to refuse these priority orders, but they would need a valid justification. The Commission would also have the right to ask member states and companies for information on their existing stocks and production capacities for crisis-relevant goods, if they need an overview, and to launch procurement on behalf of member states or jointly with them, if member states request it.
Ensuring free movement
Another important objective of the regulation is to make sure the free movement of people, goods and services will continue unhindered by any travel restrictions or border closures. If restrictions are unavoidable, MEPs want the Commission to establish so-called fast lanes for essential workers and critical goods as well as to provide necessary templates or authorisation forms for cross-border activities.
Better preparedness, coordination and information flows
During the COVID-19 pandemic, getting coherent and up to date information on anything proved very difficult. This regulation now wants to put in place information channels and contact points to keep decision-makers abreast of developments during a crisis as well as to keep companies and citizens well informed of existing crisis measures, their application and interpretation.
To make sure member states do not take divergent approaches and contradictory measures, the regulation would have them inform the Commission of all their crisis decisions. The Commission would then be able to request changes, if it considers this necessary.
Finally yet importantly, the planned regulation also details preparatory measures and activities for periods when there is no crisis on the horizon. These involve trainings, stress tests and consultations, among other things.
After the vote, rapporteur Andreas Schwab (EPP, DE) said: "Covid-19 has proven that national approaches to border closures and export controls do not work. A major achievement for us is the addition of so-called “fast lanes”, which will allow crisis-relevant workers to cross borders in the event of a crisis by filling out uniform, digital forms based on the example of the Covid-QR-code. This would partially solve the problem of A1 certificates."
Parliament adopted its negotiating mandate on Wednesday with 476 votes for, 121 against and 51 abstentions. Negotiations with the Council on the eventual shape of the regulation are expected to start next week, on September 20.