What is the Role of the European Union in the COVID-19 Pandemic?

David Townend*, Remco van de Pas, Lisette Bongers, Sharmi Haque, Birgit Wouters, Eva Pilot, Nina Stahl, P. Schroder-Back, David Shaw, Thomas Krafft

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Whereas the heart of the purpose and activity of the European Union is concerned with economic harmonisation, its internal market, and the freedom of movement of people, goods, services, and capital, necessarily require public health measures. The EU is committed to both human rights and to “Health in All Policies”. This paper considers how that agenda has been confronted by the COVID-19 pandemic. It considers how the EU Treaties limit the possible scope of that response. The paper considers responses in relation to freedom of movement, the work of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, issues relating to the operation of the General Data Protection Regulation, and the Clinical Trials Directive and Medical Devices Directive. It concludes with a brief examination of the economic responses of the EU to the COVID-19 pandemic. An Appendix gives a brief introduction to the EU (health) law and history.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-268
Number of pages19
JournalMedicine and Law
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


  • EU
  • covid-19
  • public health
  • ECDC
  • GDPR
  • COVID-19
  • Public Health


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