What can the EU do to alleviate the impact of the coronavirus crisis?

Briefing 16-03-2020

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has now been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. Alleviating the human effects of the crisis is paramount, but repercussions are being felt across many sectors. European Union institutions are unanimous in calling for solidarity among Member States, and for Europe to offer support, within its remit, to its Member States in their response to the common challenge. On 10 March 2020, Heads of State or Government of the EU countries held a videoconference on COVID-19, to discuss how to coordinate the EU-level response. EU leaders stressed the need for a joint European approach and close coordination with the European Commission. Priorities were identified, to be followed up on 'at all levels immediately'. The measures that are – or could be – envisaged range across different policy areas. As an immediate response, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen formed a coronavirus response team. Further measures were announced in a European coronavirus response on 13 March 2020. Planned – and potential – health and preparedness measures include reinforcing the EU's role in joint procurement, bolstering cooperation in disease management and control, and potentially widening the remit of the European reference networks. Greater controls on people crossing external EU borders are also proposed. Monetary, budgetary and macroeconomic measures include, for instance, those taken to ease the impact of the coronavirus emergency on the aviation industry. Moreover, the EU and the Member States, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund can also take steps to help people and firms. The EU budget has been mobilised to provide funds to reinforce preparedness and containment measures, as well as research into the virus. Furthermore, cross-border health threats, such as that posed by COVID 19, could be taken into account when shaping the multiannual financial framework for 2021-2027.