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Covid-19 pandemic in the EU 
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

The European Commission's response to the Coronavirus

The European Commission is coordinating a common European response to the outbreak of COVID-19 and mitigate the socio-economic impact in the European Union. The  Commission  stands  ready  to  propose  to  the  Council  that  the  Union  institutions activate the general escape clause to accommodate a more general fiscal policy support and the full flexibility provided within the EU budgetary framework, so that it can implement the measures necessary to effectively manage the Coronavirus outbreak.

23. March 2020

President Ursula von der Layen has established a coordinating response team, composed of the commissioners responsible for the most affected policies:

  • Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager is in charge of a Europe fit for the digital age

  • Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis  is in charge of an economy that works for people

  • Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni is in charge of macroeconomic aspects

  • Commissioner Thierry Breton is in charge of the internal market

  • Commissioner Stella Kyriakides is in charge of all health issues

  • Commissioner Janez Lenarčič is in charge of crisis management

  • Commissioner Ylva Johansson is in charge of border-related issues

  • Commissioner Adina Vălean is in charge of mobility



The EC has soft measures of coordination and support for member states in the EU health policy, since EU countries hold primary responsibility for organising and delivering health services and medical care. EU health policy therefore serves to complement national policies. Latest decisions taken on the EU health policy in the response to the outbreak of COVID-19 include:

  • The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) is an EU agency aimed at strengthening Europe's defences against infectious diseases. The ECDC’s and the EC’s key role is to produce rapid risk assessments and provides epidemiological updates. ECDC publishes daily updated epidemiological information on the COVID-19 situation around the world and also provides technical support by issuing various specific guidance for how to respond to the outbreak.

  • At EU level, the Commission support coordination between Member States through:

    • the Early Warning and Response System (EWRS),

    • the Health Security Committee (HSC),

    • the HSC Communicators' network (ComNet).

  • The European Commission launched on 18 March 2020 an advisory panel on COVID-19 composed of seven epidemiologists and virologists, who will act independently, from different Member States to formulate EU guidelines on science-based and coordinated risk management measures. ECDC, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the Emergency Response Coordination Center (ERCC) will participate as observers.

  • The Commission also co-finances the delivery of assistance from one country to another. The Commission’s Emergency Response Coordination Centre (Brussels) has a key role in providing specific support to countries and assists 24/7 in Europe and beyond.

  • The institutions of the EU with countries that have joined the Joint Procurement Agreement, can engage joint procurement procedures with a view to purchase

    • vaccines,

    • antivirals,

    • medical countermeasures for serious cross-border threats to health.



The emergency funding from Horizon 2020 enables researchers to work immediately to tackle the outbreak of the Coronavirus on new vaccines, diagnostic tests, treatment and monitoring system.

  • The EC has mobilised €140 million of public and private funding for promising research on vaccines, diagnosis and treatment.

  • 30 January 2020, the European Commission launched a request for expressions of interest entitled 'SC1-PHE-CORONAVIRUS-2020: Advancing knowledge for the clinical and public health response to the [COVID-19] epidemic' with a budget of €47.5 million.

  • The European Commission offered up to €80 million (in the framework of the InnovFin Infectious Disease Finance Facility under Horizon 2020) of financial support to CureVac, a higly innovative vaccine developer from Tübingen, Germany, to scale up development and production of a vaccine against the Coronavirus in Europe.

  • Several EU-funded projects are already contributing to preparedness and response to the COVID-19 outbreak, such as the European Virus Archive - GLOBAL (EVAg) and the PREPARE project.

  • The Commission is also working with other research funders through Global research collaboration for infectious disease preparedness (GLopid-R ) network. This network is mobilised to facilitate a rapid and effective response to COVID-19 outbreak, through the coordination of research agenda and addressing priority research needs.



Reinforcing health measures at the Schengen Borders.

  • 16 March, the EC presented guidelines to Member States on health-related border management measures in the context of the COVID-19 emergency. The aim is to protect citizens' health, ensure the right treatment of people who do have to travel, and make sure essential goods and services remain available.

  • The Commission has also established a coordination group “COVID-19/Corona Information Group – Borders” with the participation of Member States, Schengen Associated Countries, Council General Secretariat and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency.

  • The Commission is financially supporting health projects in frontline Member States at the external border as well as national measures designed to address the possible spread of coronavirus in hotspots and reception centres for migrants.

  • The whole transport sector: maritime, rail and road, has received preliminary advice for preparedness and response to the outbreak of COVID-19. Moreover, the European Commission will rapidly put forward a legislation to temporarily alleviate airlines from their airport slot usage obligations under EU law.



EU state aid rules allow Member States to act swiftly to support citizens and businesses due to the economic repercussions of the coronavirus.

  • The Commission has prepared the following measures to support EU countries in their efforts to:

    • make sure that state aid can flow to companies that need it,

    • make full use of the flexibility which exists in the Stability and Growth Pact.


  • €1 billion will be redirected from the EU budget as a guarantee to the European Investment Fund to incentivise the banks to ensure liquidity to SMEs. This will support at least 100,000 European companies with €8 billion of working capital financing.

  • The  Commission  is proposing to extend the scope  of the EU  Solidarity  Fund by also including public health crisis within its scope.  Up  to  €800 million is available in 2020.

  • The European Globalisation Adjustment Fund could be also mobilized to support dismissed workers and those self-employed. Up to €179 million is available in 2020.

  • The Corona Response Investment Initiative will be directed at

    • the health care systems

    • SMEs

    • labour markets

    • other vulnerable parts of our economies


€25 billion of European public investment to deal with the fallout of the Coronavirus crisis will be proposed by the Commission through relinquish this year its obligation to request refunding of unspent pre-financing for European structural and investment funds currently held by Member States.

The Member States will be required to use these amounts to speed up their investments under the structural funds. In view of the average co-financing rates across Member States, the €7.5 billion will be able to trigger the release and use of some €17.5 - €18 billion of structural funding across the EU.

This proposal can be implemented through a modification of the common provision regulation for the structural funds. The Commission will make this proposal to Council and Parliament.

The national operational programmes would then be adapted, where necessary, to channel the funding towards areas such as short-term work measures, the health sector, labour market measures, and sectors particularly affected in the current circumstances.


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Text by: Anna Drążek, BSSSC Brussels Antenna

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