What can the EU do to help solve the COVID19 Crisis?
The short answer is that the European Union does not have special competences when health issues are concerned. And it never did.
The founding fathers of the EU chose that these matters are national issues.
So the EU does not have the possibility to adopt regulations or directives about health questions.
And when such possibilities do not exist they are not there either in a major crisis like today, even if there seems to be a general wish that the EU should do more.
That said, it is evident that the 27 EU member states can and are using their powers to develop close cooperation in the EU to coordinate their work and initiatives, also in relation to health issues.
This also happens in the present situation. On February 13, the health ministers from all the member states held an informal meeting. The heads of state and government have done the same.
The EU does already have certain structures in place, which come into play in the the present crisis.
The Cypriot member of the EU Commission, Mrs. Stella Kyriakidis, is responsible for Health and Food Safety. She has a background as psychologist.
And the EU Agency for Disease Prevention and Control in Stockholm is very active in following the development, collecting information, analysing it and making recommendations.
The director is Dr. Andrea Ammon, from the well-known Robert Koch Institute in Germany.
And finally the European Medicines Agency in Amsterdam. It analyses and approves new medications on behalf of all member states. Its director is Prof. Guido Rasi.
In addition to help with coordination the EU can also use many of its instruments to support the work in this crisis.
Here are some examples of what is being done:
The Commission has very quickly approved that each member state may break the agreements about their budgets.
Each country needs to give massive economic support to citizens, business, etc., to keep society going.
This is giving direct economic subsidies, guarantees, easing of the rules on state aid.
As the Commission has been asked to monitor that the governments stick to the agreements in these areas it is also the Commission which may give temporary permissions not to follow the rules.
This has been done in each member state very quickly.
On 17 March it was agreed to close EU’s external borders for 30 days.
The purpose is to prevent the virus to continue to cross these borders. So-called Green Corridors are installed to ensure free flow of goods, and medicines, despite the closure.
This is also the case on the internal borders, where they are temporarily closed. Last week a queue of 57 km lorries waited at the German-Polish border. Such situations have to be avoided.
The European Central Bank in Frankfurt has created a special fund with 750 billion € to support the European economy and the Euro.
And President Christine Lagarde has emphasized that its support is unlimited.