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The European Union: Legal Response to Covid-19

Tamara Hervey, Sabrina Roettger-Wirtz, Alexandra Fyfe

From: Oxford Constitutions (http://oxcon.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2023. All Rights Reserved. Subscriber: null; date: 07 June 2023

General editors: Prof. Jeff King; Prof. Octavio Ferraz
Area editors: Dr. Pedro Villarreal; Dr. Andrew Jones; Prof. Alan Bogg; Prof. Nicola Countouris; Prof. Eva Pils; Prof. Nico Steytler; Dr. Elena de Nictolis; Dr. Bryan Thomas; Dr. Michael Veale; Dr. Silvia Suteu; Prof. Colleen Flood; Prof. Cathryn Costello; Dr. Natalie Byrom.

© The several contributors 2021. Some rights reserved. This is an open access publication, available online and distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0), a copy of which is available at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/. Enquiries concerning use outside the scope of the licence terms should be sent to the Rights Department, Oxford University Press.

Preferred Citation: T Hervey, S Roettger-Wirtz, ‘The European Union: Legal Response to Covid-19’, in Jeff King and Octávio LM Ferraz et al (eds), The Oxford Compendium of National Legal Responses to Covid-19 (OUP 2021). doi: 10.1093/law-occ19/e17.013.17

For Parts I–IV, except where the text indicates the contrary, the law is as it stood on: 16 January 2022.

For Parts V–VI, except where the text indicates the contrary, the law is as it stood on: 16 November 2022.

Introductory note

The first cases of Covid-19 in Europe, involving individuals who had travelled from China, were reported in late January 2020. By late February 2020, the Italian health system was struggling to respond to the pandemic, and several more European Union (EU) Member States had reported cases. By late March 2020, all EU countries had reported cases.1 Nearly two years later, by early January 2022, EU countries had reported over 918,000 Covid-19 deaths, with Italy reporting just under 140,000, and France over 125,000.2

The EU itself (as opposed to its Member States) has limited competence in public health. There is no ‘EU health system’. All matters pertaining to the organisation and financing of health systems fall within Member State competence. Some aspects of public health regulation are harmonised at EU level, but, in general, the hallmark of EU action in the public health domain is coordination and persuasion. EU action flows from the principle of subsidiarity, according to which in all areas where the EU has non-exclusive competences governance should take place at the lowest level commensurate with the issue concerned. According to Article 5(3) of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), EU level action shall be resorted to only if the objective of the measure cannot be reached sufficiently at Member State level and ‘by reason of the scale or effects of the proposed action, be better achieved at Union level.’ The application of the principle is subject to ex ante scrutiny of the national Parliaments of the Member States for EU legislative measures. As communicable diseases do not respect State boundaries, on the one hand this may suggest that a pandemic response should be coordinated at EU level—or indeed at World Health Organization (WHO) level. On the other hand, public health responses are also dependent on health system capacity, indicating that a subsidiarity-respecting EU pandemic response should take place at national or even sub-national level. In practice, responses to pandemics remain nationally driven, even among those EU Member States most committed to the EU’s institutions.

The EU has been very active in response to Covid-19, especially using soft law and other ‘steering’ mechanisms. In the European Commission’s self-assessment, the EU has also been effective.3 In the early phases of the pandemic, the governments of the EU Member States, in general, did not seek to coordinate their actions through the EU’s institutions. Initial humanitarian assistance to Italy, Spain, and France did not come from the EU. But some aspects of the EU’s response, such as its repatriation of EU citizens from Wuhan and joint procurement of personal protective equipment in February 2020, its vaccine rollout—and export of vaccines to elsewhere in the world—in February/March 2021, or the EU’s mutually recognised ‘digital certificate’ of vaccination/negative test/Covid-19 recovery applicable since 1 July 2021, suggest that the EU is an important site of Covid-19 governance for its 27 Member States and their citizens and residents.

Methodological note

The nature of the European Union, which is not a nation State, necessitated some minor adjustments to the Author Guidance Code (AGC) for this report. The authors are grateful for the advice on adjustments not only from the Editorial Committee of the Lex-Atlas: Covid-19 project, but also from Professor Paul Craig, as member of the International Advisory Board. The structure of this report remains consistent with the AGC, to facilitate comparison with the other reports in the project. However, there are some additional headings, and for aspects of the substantive content of Covid-19 responses across the European Union, readers are referred to the country reports of the 27 EU Member States.

I.  Constitutional Framework

1.  The European Union (EU) is not a State. Often described (unhelpfully) as ‘sui generis’, it may be conceptualised as a particularly dense form of intergovernmental organisation, or a ‘supra-national’ or ‘quasi-federal’ organisation. While few think of the EU as a ‘State-in-waiting’, equally, few go to the other extreme of thinking of the EU as only a vehicle through which the governments of its Member States pursue their interests. The EU is neither an emerging ‘United States of Europe’ nor merely a regional World Trade Organization (WTO). It is probably best to conceptualise the EU as a multi-level system of governance, within which heterarchical relationships structure relations between Member State and EU-level institutions. For information about the Member State-level of Covid-19 law, readers are referred to the country reports for EU Member States. This report covers only the EU-level response.

2.  However it is conceptualised, the EU is a rules-based organisation. Its founding treaties (the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU)) operate as a quasi-constitution. The Treaties establish the institutions of the EU, determine their powers and the procedures through which they must act, and the checks and balances and processes of accountability for their decision-making.4

3.  The European Commission (‘Commission’) is the EU’s main executive arm. When acting as executive and exercising implementing powers, the European Commission is subject to control by so-called comitology committees which are made up of representatives of the executive in each Member State, chaired by the Commission. The Commission also formally adopts executive acts which can be based on advice and opinions provided by EU agencies, which give scientific and technical regulatory support.

4.  The European Council is composed of the Heads of States or Government of the Member States, together with the European Council President and the President of the Commission.5 The European Council has important strategic executive functions, as it determines the political directions and priorities of the EU.6

5.  Among the European Commission’s powers is the power to propose new legislation,7 which, if adopted by the European Parliament and Council of the European Union (‘Council’)—not to be confused with the aforementioned ‘European Council’—binds all the Member States.8 The European Parliament is directly elected by the EU’s citizens.9 The Council of the European Union, consists of the representatives of the governments of the 27 EU Member States at ministerial level meeting in 10 topic-specific configurations.10 The EU legislature consists of the European Commission, which has the power only to propose legislation, the European Parliament, and the Council, acting together in accordance with the co-legislative procedures set out in the treaties which formally established the EU.11

6.  The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has power to judicially review all acts of the EU institutions for compliance with the EU treaties.12 This includes both procedural and substantive grounds of review. The CJEU is composed of the General Court (formerly Court of First Instance) and the Court of Justice.

7.  The EU institutional structures are also used by some groups of Member States to establish deeper forms of economic integration: the Schengen area13 and the Eurozone14 are two examples.

8.  The Treaties set out the division of power between the EU and its Member States.15 The EU has exclusive competence in only a small number of areas, such as external trade relations.16 The Member States have exclusive competence in any areas where the EU does not have competence. In many areas, especially concerning the regulation of trade within the EU, the EU shares competence with its Member States.17

9.  Health protection, as defined in the TFEU, is a shared competence between the EU and its Member States.18 Health is also a ‘transversal’ area of EU law,19 cutting across the EU’s competences in several areas, such as internal trade, free movement of people, research and innovation, environment, and so on. The EU has rule-making powers for some aspects of health protection; many aspects remain a national competence.20 Enforcement of EU law, including its health protection law, is predominantly a matter for national administrative and judicial authorities. Individuals may rely directly on some provisions of EU (health) law before domestic courts.21 Allocation of resources to healthcare systems is a domestic competence within the EU.22 The EU supports national healthcare systems in only relatively minor ways, for example, through funding biomedical and other health research,23 through its regional and structural development policies,24 or through the coordination of social security systems for intra-EU migrants.25 In general, responsibility for responding to emergencies lies at the national level, but the EU also has an emergency power which applies ‘in particular if severe difficulties arise in the supply of certain products’.26

10.  The EU’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic has not altered the basic ‘constitutional’ arrangements detailed above. The EU is considering its ‘constitutional’ structures through a process called the ‘Conference on the Future of Europe’,27 and the European Commission has proposed a ‘European Health Union’.28 However, the modesty of the Commission’s proposal29 and the fact that the Conference’s Joint Declaration30 mentions health just once suggest that, in all likelihood, neither will result in a significant change to the EU’s constitutional arrangements as a response to the pandemic. Either might result in modest adjustments to the EU’s powers in the health domain.

II.  Applicable Legal Framework

A.  Constitutional and international law

11.  The EU does not have competence to declare a constitutional state of emergency, in the sense of a normative act that extends powers or suspends provisions concerning the protection of basic rights, the operations of legislatures, and access to courts beyond what is possible and acceptable in normal times. The first formal step taken by the EU institutions was the European Commission’s DG SANTE opening an alert notification in the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control’s (ECDC) Early Warning and Response System on 9 January 2020. 31 However, in response to Covid-19, the EU did adjust the procedural rules pertaining to its legislature and judiciary.

12.  Further details are in Part III below. In summary, new provisions within the European Parliament’s Rules of Procedure32 which allow for—and, in the case of the majority of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and staff, required—remote working, including debating and voting, were made under the President’s legal responsibility for the ‘security and integrity’ of Parliamentary premises.33 The European Parliament held its first plenary with some MEPs present for the first time since March 2020 on 7 June 2021: most MEPs continued to join remotely. The Court of Justice of the European Union suspended all hearings on 16 March 2020, and extended the procedural time limits until 1 September 2021, although urgent proceedings continued.34 Its ‘e-Curia’ system for electronic document submission was already in place,35 and this supported the Court continuing to provide a judicial service through remote working. The CJEU physically re-opened in May 2020, with changes to its working arrangements concerning access to its buildings, with mandatory temperature checks; mask wearing; suspension of provision of gowns; and disinfection of tables, microphones, and earphones.36

13.  The EU is a party to numerous international trade agreements; and also to some United Nations (UN) instruments, such as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The EU’s common customs code allows the EU to impose export authorisations to prevent or remedy a critical situation ‘arising on account of a shortage of essential products’, a provision on which the EU relied to block Covid-19 vaccine exports in February 2021.37 Whether this is consistent with the EU’s WTO obligations is less clear. Article XXI.2(a) of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) permits ‘export prohibitions or restrictions temporarily applied to prevent or relieve critical shortages of foodstuffs or other products essential to the exporting contracting party’,38 and Article XX GATT provides a more general human health exemption from GATT obligations.39 The EU would presumably take the view that its Covid-19 response does not breach any of its WTO obligations. There is also the question of whether the EU might have breached either or both of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement40 and the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement,41 again which the EU would presumably deny.

14.  The EU institutions refer consistently to the WHO’s 11 March 2020 declaration of Covid-19 as a global pandemic.42 The European Centre for Disease Control, an agency of the EU, draws on WHO epidemiological guidance in developing its policy recommendations for the EU. For example, its Technical Report of 17 March 2021, ‘Introducing a coherent European framework for tuning Covid-19 response measures’,43 relies on WHO epidemiological thresholds to establish a series of proposed ‘tiers’ based on Covid-19 cases and deaths, and estimates a ‘contact budget’, to demonstrate how much latitude each Member State has to lighten Covid-19 response measures without shifting to a more negative tier, or how much needs to be done to achieve a more positive one.

B.  Statutory provisions

15.  The EU’s Treaties (its ‘constitution’)44 provide for two types of legislative provisions to be adopted by the EU legislature: Regulations—usually a legislative, not a delegated executive act—and Directives. However, delegated and implementing acts can also take the form of a regulation, eg a Commission Delegated Regulation (see further Part II.C below).

16.  The EU’s Health Security Committee, established informally in 2001 and formalised in 2013,45 consisting of representatives of the health ministries of all Member States, with Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, Serbia, and Turkey as observers, began to discuss the emerging situation on 17 January 2020,46 and continues to do so to date (January 2022). The European Commission established a Covid-19 response team on 2 March 2020,47 to coordinate the various EU activities and policies to tackle the pandemic. But the EU legislature has not formally declared a public health emergency nor has any new general EU law been introduced to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic: indeed, the EU does not have competence to do so. The European Commission does have an executive power to ‘recognize a situation of public health emergency’,48 but only where the WHO has not yet done so in accordance with the international health regulations. Instead, existing competences and pre-existing legislation has been applied, for example, where the legislation provides for public health exceptions or flexibilities, or built upon, for example, where the legislation enables further legislative or executive acts. In general, this approach has been supported by all relevant stakeholders. However, there are instances of opposition, for example litigation arguing that the EU has used the pandemic to unlawfully extend its competences.49 For example, the outcome of the European Commission’s initiation of infringement proceedings under Article TFEU against Germany, on 9 June 2021, for the decision in the Bundesverfassungsgericht in the Weiss case is likely to have a bearing on such Covid-19 litigation concerning EU competence.50

C.  Executive rule-making powers

17.  In the constitutional system of the EU, rule-making power in the form of non-legislative but legally binding acts may be formally delegated to the European Commission.51 These acts are used to either supplement and/or amend non-essential parts of legislative acts, known in EU law as ‘delegated acts’, or ensure the uniform implementation of EU law, known in EU law as ‘implementing acts’.

18.  The EU’s heterarchical relationships with its Member States, especially as embodied in its ‘comitology’ processes, which were established by EU legislation,52 are an important feature of accountability for some executive acts of the EU institutions (see Part I above).53 Formal and binding legal acts of the EU institutions are judicially reviewable before the CJEU, at the suit inter alia of the Council and European Parliament (two of the three institutions that comprise the EU legislature, see Part I above).54 Moreover, national courts may raise questions of interpretation or validity of acts of the EU institutions and bodies by referring questions to the Court of Justice using the preliminary ruling procedure.55 The European Ombudsman is also part of the landscape of accountability for EU executive rule-making (see Part III.G below).

19.  In a crisis like the Covid-19 pandemic, the EU executive—in the form of the European Commission, but also the European Council and other bodies, such as EU agencies—plays an important role. Generally, the EU executive steered the EU through the pandemic, and few measures were adopted by the legislator via the ordinary legislative procedure. Instead, many responses adopted by the European Commission as the EU’s main executive arm took the form of non-legislative but legally binding acts and soft law (see Part II.D below). Where EU agencies are involved, such as the European Medicines Agency (EMA), formally speaking the European Commission takes the formal executive act, on the basis of a Recommendation by the EU agency. Key examples of such acts of delegated executive power used to respond to Covid-19, include the following. The Commission took measures to implement EU legislation like the EU’s Digital Covid-19 Certificate Regulation,56 by establishing the technical specifications for the Certificate in an implementing act (see further Part IV.A.2 below).57 The Commission took measures implementing the various elements of the way in which the EU contributed to steering Covid-19 economic recovery, in general or in specific sectors such as the transport sector (see further Part V below). The EU used executive acts to adjust market-structuring rules such as trade or State aids rules in response to the pandemic (see further Part V below). The Commission took Implementing Decisions to authorise Covid-19 vaccines (see further Part IV.A.8 below).58

20.  Like in previous crisis situations, such as the financial crisis59 or the migration crisis,60 the European Council—the meeting of Heads of State or Government—determined the political directions for the EU’s response to the crisis and also the economic recovery measures.61 However, the European Council’s role has been more concerned with the establishment of political consensus and providing the programmatic guidelines for the EU’s action than with actual executive rule-making.

D.  Guidance

21.  In the overwhelming majority of instances, the EU’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic was given shape by soft law measures.62 The EU’s Treaties provide for two types of non-binding measures to be adopted by the EU institutions: Recommendations and Opinions.63 However, many other forms of soft law, such as Communications or Guidelines, are also adopted by EU institutions and bodies.64

22.  Non-binding measures were used to provide guidance to the Member States and coordinate the national Covid-19 responses in accordance with EU law. These included some policy-specific instances, for example, Council Recommendations and Commission Communications were used extensively in the context of travel restrictions in the EU. Soft law was also extensively used by the EU institutions to adopt more general coordinating measures. There are seven such instruments: the Joint European Roadmap towards lifting COVID-19 containment measures,65 and the Communication on Short-term EU health preparedness for COVID-19 outbreaks,66 Communication on additional COVID-19 response measures,67 Staying safe from COVID-19 during winter,68 A united front to beat COVID-19,69 A common path to safe and sustained re-opening,70 and Addressing together current and new COVID-19 challenges.71

23.  The legitimacy of the extensive use of soft law is by no means uncontested.72 The perceived downside of guidance and other soft law measures is that they do not create legally binding obligations, therefore, their efficiency in coordinating Member State actions is dependent on the political will of the Member States.73 Thus, wherever an EU institution or body adopted a Recommendation, Guideline, or other type of non-binding measure, this does not automatically mean that this measure was followed by the Member States. The Commission’s more general Communications aimed at coordinating the Member State responses (described in the previous paragraph), in general are worded carefully in terms of recommending actions and pointing to the different epidemiological situations of the Member States. Exceptions are the Communications on Staying safe from COVID-19 during winter74 and the Addressing together current and new COVID-19 challenges,75 which use language that borders on imperative or is directive in tone, with statements such as ‘decisions must be taken in a coordinated and targeted manner’,76 ‘in the current epidemiological context in the EU, it is difficult to justify lifting control measures’,77 ‘[t]he Commission strongly encourages Member States to consider this guidance’,78 ‘Member States need to have booster campaigns immediately in place’,79 ‘should rapidly deploy booster doses’,80 ‘vaccination efforts must be continued’,81 and ‘Member States must … coordinate restrictions for all types of travel into the EU+’.82

24.  Finally, as discussed more extensively in Part IV below on the public health measures imposed and Part VI below on human rights and vulnerable groups, EU agencies, particularly the ECDC, have provided extensive scientific guidance that informed the EU and Member State response, especially in terms of non-pharmaceutical interventions.

25.  The EU is thus responsible for developing a dense web of guidance for its Member States, which seeks to coordinate national law and policy, especially so as to protect the fundamental values of the EU, in particular: free movement, but also human rights such as data protection and the GDPR (see Part VI.B below);83 to steer national decision-making; and to support mutual learning through the creation and analysis of comparative datasets. Even where the EU institutions could have used ‘hard’ law, they did not always do so. Instead, the EU institutions have developed a strong sense of the ‘EU science’, which covers population indicators (viral circulation including of vaccine-resistant variants and vaccination coverage); individual indicators (age over 60 years, pre-existing medical conditions listed non-exhaustively, negative rapid antigen test, previous infection, or vaccination status, distancing, and respiratory and hand hygiene); and situational indicators (outdoors versus indoors, distribution of people, ie crowds and moving or seated, and scale and effect on contract tracing), all of which are necessary when making law or policy in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The EU’s guidance also steers its own law and policy. We are not aware of any instances where the EU’s ‘hard law’ deviates in any significant respect from the EU’s guidance or advice.

III.  Institutions and Oversight

26.  The EU may be conceptualised as a multi-level system of governance. It operates through its own institutions, but its legally binding Regulations, Directives, Decisions, and general principles of EU law are given effect by the institutions of its Member States. Like other international organisations, the EU also deploys a range of soft law measures which are persuasive only, but can have an effect on national law and policy decisions. For discussion of the ways in which the provisions covered in this report were implemented in the EU Member States, and institutional oversight of such implementation, readers should consider the relevant country reports, even if they are not explicit about the EU as the source of or inspiration for a legal or policy decision. This report concentrates on the EU-level.

A.  The role of legislatures in supervising the executive

27.  In considering how the EU legislature supervises the EU executive, we need to understand how the EU legislature is formed, and the relationships between the EU institutions when they act as a legislature and when they exercise executive powers. Formally speaking, the basic EU legislative process involves the European Commission proposing legislation, and Parliament and Council acting as co-legislature. In practice, informal relations tend to have a constraining effect on the Commission’s willingness to propose legislation unless it believes it will enjoy sufficient support from the other legislative institutions. The EU legislature is constrained by the formal competences given in the Treaty on European Union and Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, and may not lawfully extend its own powers, including powers to delegate its own decision-making. This is a complex area of EU law, because in practice the formalist approach of the CJEU to delegated rule-making, first articulated in the 1950s,84 has been significantly modified.85 Amendments to EU competence—as opposed to reinterpretations of EU competence—must take place through reform of the Treaties, which involves the agreement of each Member State, in accordance with its constitutional requirements. The EU’s competence rules thus play a role in constraining EU executive power.

28.  Where EU legislation grants specific delegated power to take executive acts within the EU’s ‘constitutional’ arrangements, the executive power is formally granted to the European Commission. That power may be removed at any time by the EU legislature. The European Commission may not formally extend its own powers, although of course the Commission has significant discretion in adopting the often quite technical and detailed executive measures and interpreting its delegated powers broadly. However, the key constraint on executive rule-making in the EU is a matter of process and institutional design. In most important instances, the Commission must act through a set of structures and procedures known as ‘comitology’ (see also Part II.C above).86 The effect of these structures is to ensure national executive control over the EU’s decision-making processes, as the committees are made up of a representative from each Member State, although they are chaired by the European Commission. Acting largely through the comitology procedure (for instance, in allocating grants under a specified amount) the European Commission may take ‘implementing acts’, which ensure the detail of EU law is implemented uniformly across the Member States—although in some instances the enabling legislation permits the European Commission to take implementing acts without using the comitology procedure. Where the European Commission is granted power to adopt binding acts that either supplement and/or amend non-essential parts of legislative acts (‘delegated acts’), the comitology procedure does not apply, but the Parliament or Council may raise objections within a short time frame (usually two months) after the act is adopted.

29.  In addition to those oversight mechanisms, in theory, the European Parliament can terminate the powers of the European Commission as a whole as co-legislature by adopting a motion of censure (vote of no confidence). A censure requires a two-thirds majority of the votes cast, representing a majority of Members of the European Parliament.87 In practice, this power has never been exercised, although the European Parliament has rejected proposed Commission candidates at the approval stage.88

30.  The European Parliament also has formal oversight over Commission Decisions through judicial review proceedings.89

31.  In terms of more persuasive modes of oversight, the European Parliament has power to adopt non-binding resolutions, expressing views on actions of the other EU institutions, and calling on them to take further action.90 Acting by a simple majority, the European Parliament may request the Commission to propose legislation or other acts where required to implement the Treaties.91 As far as we are aware, the European Parliament has not used these powers to extensively steer Covid-19-related action of the other legislative institutions, but the Parliament has indicated support for relevant Commission initiatives, such as the proposed new pharmaceutical strategy for Europe.92

B.  The functioning of the legislature where its ordinary business is disrupted

32.  The European Parliament, Council, and Commission continue to function, in modified ways, during the Covid-19 pandemic.

33.  The European Parliament’s business was significantly disrupted in spring 2020. A plenary session took place in late March 2020, but with only one debate, three voting sessions, and 11 votes. By October 2020, it was possible for the plenary sitting to include 18 debates, 13 voting sessions, and over 1,500 votes. From 19 March to end November 2020, a quickly-arranged remote system involving the Parliament’s translation service was used for over 1,500 meetings.93 In November 2020, because of the rapidly deteriorating position in Belgium, France, and Luxembourg, all parliamentary business took place remotely.94 Parliament deployed its liaison offices, situated across the EU to enable continued remote participation of MEPs.95 The arrangements for plenary parliamentary meetings originally allowed only entirely in-person or entirely online meetings,96 but hybrid plenary sessions were held from October 2020.97 Many MEPs continued to participate remotely in parliamentary committees, which allowed for meetings with some MEPs present and some attending online, when the European Parliament reopened in early June 2021.

34.  The European Parliament amended its Rules of Procedure98 in December 202099 to add a new Title (XIIIa) on ‘Extraordinary Circumstances’. The changes were adopted nem con by the European Parliament’s 25-member pre-existing Committee on Constitutional Affairs. The new rules apply where the President determines, on the basis of reliable evidence, that for ‘reasons of security, or safety, or as a result of the non-availability of technical means it is, or will be, impossible or dangerous for Parliament to convene in accordance with its usual procedures’.100 Special provisions apply to permit remote participation of MEPs using information technology, where the political balance in Parliament is severely impaired because a significant number of MEPs cannot take part in parliamentary proceedings because of safety or security, including occurring in a regional context.101 The remote participation regime is outlined in Rule 237c, and includes ensuring that MEPs continue to be able to speak in both plenary and committees, to table texts and to vote.102 MEPs who are participating remotely are included in a quorum count. To ensure physical distancing, several meeting rooms may essentially be deemed to be a parliamentary chamber.103 As in every workplace, changes to working practices in the European Parliament changed the nature of interactions between MEPs, staff, and ‘visitors’ (including stakeholders representing various interests), and affected how they conducted their work, including legislative activities and scrutiny of executive acts.104 A legal challenge seeking interim relief for the decision of the Bureau of the European Parliament, of 27 October 2021, making access to the Parliament buildings in Brussels, Luxembourg, and Strasbourg conditional on the presentation of an EU Digital Covid-19 Certificate105 (see further Part IV.A.2 below) was, however, unsuccessful on the grounds of lack of urgency.106

35.  Time limits for the ‘European Citizens Initiative’, whereby EU citizens may petition Parliament,107 were adjusted.108

36.  From 10 March 2020, the European Council (meetings of Heads of State of the Member States) was meeting by videoconference, as were other European Council configurations. Videoconferencing for some meetings continues to date, as at end December 2021,109 although the European Council met in person in Brussels on 24—25 June 2021 and in person meetings have been held regularly since then. The European Council adopted a first formal Decision temporarily derogating from its normal rules of procedure in March 2020.110 This Decision has been regularly updated.111 It allows COREPER—the ministerial arm of the European Council that carries out the its day-to-day business—to continue under circumstances where members are unable to travel to meetings.112 In March 2021, the European Ombudsman called on the European Council to improve transparency of its decision-making under Covid-19 procedures (see further, Part III.G below).113

37.  The European Commission amended its Rules of Procedure to permit remote teleworking and formal virtual meetings on 22 April 2020.114 The aim of the amendment was to ensure continued smooth running of the Commission’s decision-making processes. Remote working practices and virtual meetings were also put in place for the EU’s regulatory agencies. For example, the European Medicines Agency announced on 30 March 2020 that it would replace printed medicines licenses with electronically signed and authenticated certificates, so as to maintain the medicines licensing process through the pandemic.115

C.  Role of and access to courts

38.  The Court of Justice and the General Court continued to operate during the pandemic. On 19 March 2020, the CJEU announced, via its website, temporary changes to its working arrangements, giving priority to urgent, expedited, and interim proceedings.116 Listed hearings were adjourned. Prescribed time limits for proceedings were extended until 1 September 2021.117 Documents continue to be formally filed and served through ‘e-Curia’, a system which pre-dates the Covid-19 pandemic.118 Parties who are unable to travel to Luxembourg are permitted to attend the oral stage of a hearing by videoconference. As far as we are aware, no formal complaints have been raised about these arrangements. Some oral hearings are replaced with written proceedings only. These arrangements to not appear to have negatively affected access to justice before the CJEU.119

D.  Elections

39.  European Parliament elections were held in May 2019, just under a year before potent public health interventions began to be taken throughout Europe. MEPs are elected for a five-year period. Some new MEPs have been elected during the pandemic,120 because sitting MEPs resigned in order to take up national office. Elections to the European Parliament take place according to national rules and procedures: for further details on these, see the relevant country reports.

E.  Scientific advice

40.  The EU Treaties formally oblige the EU legislature and/or executive to ‘strengthen its scientific and technological bases’ through a ‘European research area’,121 and to base its environmental policy on the precautionary principle, taking account of available scientific and technical data.122 The precautionary principle is a ‘general principle’ of EU law,123 with which all EU legislation—including in the public health domain—is presumed to comply, although whether the EU’s courts appropriately scrutinise such compliance by the EU is contested.124 Other than this, there is no general obligation on the EU to make decisions based on scientific advice.

41.  The role of scientific advice is deeply embedded in practice where the EU institutions, especially the CJEU, scrutinise national administrative or other actions for compliance with EU law.125 Scientific advice is especially relevant where the CJEU scrutinises national laws, policies, or activities which could have the effect of protectionist exclusions of actors from other Member States from access to the market. The EU’s complex acquis on free movement,126 for instance, recognises ‘public health’ as a legitimate ground for national measures impeding access of products, persons, or services across the EU’s internal borders.

42.  The European Centre for Disease Control, established in 2004,127 is a non-regulatory agency of the EU charged with information gathering, analysis, and dissemination of threats to human health from communicable diseases. It is bound by transparency obligations.128 The agency is formally-speaking independent from the EU legislature and executive, but is best understood as the hub for a network of national communicable disease entities, rather than a free-standing entity.129 This configuration reflects the heterarchical nature of EU law and policy-making, where decisions are taken through institutional structures where Member States’ expertise and interests are represented. Although an attempt is made through the ECDC to define ‘public health’ scientifically, and implicitly neutrally, in practice, the EU managed the scientific uncertainties surrounding Covid-19 by both articulating an EU notion of ‘the science’—primarily through the ECDC, which itself works closely with national entities and also with the WHO—and at the same time respecting national scientific assessments.130

43.  Further, in many areas where the EU has competence, regulatory decision-making is formally required, by the relevant enabling legislation, to take place on the basis of scientific advice. An example is Decisions taken by the European Commission, on the basis of the European Medicine Agency’s advice, to grant an EU marketing authorisation for medicines.131 EMA evaluations must provide the EU institutions and the Member States with ‘the best possible scientific advice’.132 This advice must be published, subject to redaction of commercially confidential information.133 Members of the EMA’s formal committees are appointed by the governments of the Member States,134 and the committees may co-opt additional members on the basis of their scientific competence.135 Although the EMA opinion is not binding on the Commission, occasions where the EMA opinion is not followed are extremely rare, and the Commission has to provide a detail explanation for the differences.136

44.  The EU institutions have no obligation to follow ‘independent’ scientific advice outside of the regulatory and agency structures described above.

F.  Freedom of the press and freedom of information

45.  Freedom of the press is a national, rather than EU, competence, although the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights—a formal part of the EU’s founding Treaties—requires that ‘the freedom and pluralism of the media shall be respected’.137

46.  All EU institutions, agencies, offices, and bodies are formally required to ‘conduct their work as openly as possible’.138 EU citizens and residents have a right of access to documents of the EU institutions.139 We were unable to find evidence of significant interruptions to access to documents during the pandemic. The regime is covered by a Regulation (primary law) of 2001.140 Transparency of EU decision-making concerning the pharmaceutical industry has long been a point of contention. The Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated pre-existing tensions, especially concerning access to clinical trial data, where the industry seeks to protect what it regards as commercial secrets, but public health and risk regulation imperatives suggest that openness would secure better decision-making and greater public confidence. The question of whether the global pharmaceutical industry is sufficiently transparent has been widely discussed for decades in literature on global and national medical/health law, the pharmaceutical industry, and risk regulation.141 In general, the EMA has been willing to publish data, especially concerning Covid-19 vaccines, on the basis of the need to secure public confidence (see Part III.G below).

G.  Ombuds and oversight bodies

47.  The European Ombudsman is elected by the European Parliament, and investigates complaints of maladministration in the EU’s institutions and agencies, brought either on its own initiative, directly by citizens, or by an MEP on their behalf.142 The European Ombudsman is also obliged to report to the European Parliament on an annual basis, on the outcomes of its inquiries.143 The European Ombudsman has no formal power to require compliance, but relies on persuasion and publicity. It is regarded as an effective example of an Ombudsman model.144

48.  The European Ombudsman responded to complaints about lack of transparency of the EU’s response to the pandemic, both in general,145 and in specific instances. One area of concern is transparency of vaccine purchase. An inquiry into the failure of the European Commission to disclose the terms on which the EU purchased vaccines was closed on 12 May 2021,146 after the European Commission released redacted documents. Further inquiries concerning a text message exchange about vaccine purchase,147 and access to documents related to the purchase of the BioNTech Pfizer vaccine,148 are ongoing as at 14 January 2022.

49.  A second area concerns transparency of risk regulation decisions about Covid-19 vaccines. An Ombudsman inquiry,149 which concluded on 10 November 2021, concerned the EMA’s refusal to release information on the manufacturing process and the composition of the mRNA Comirnaty and Moderna vaccines. This ‘Module 3’ of the marketing authorisation application includes information on the raw materials used to manufacture the vaccine, their quantity, and their concentration. It is, in essence, a ‘road map’ to making the vaccines. The Ombudsman found no maladministration, on the basis that a public health or other ground did not displace the need to protect the commercial interests of the manufacturers. The Ombudsman also noted with approval that the EMA had proactively published non-clinical and clinical data about the safety and efficacy of the mRNA vaccines (‘Modules 4 and 5’ of the marketing authorisation application).

50.  The Ombudsman conducted an own-initiative inquiry about transparency of the ECDC’s work,150 focused in particular on the early stages of the pandemic (January–April 2020). The Ombudsman praised the ECDC for its approach in general, but found some room for improvement, especially in terms of information flow from the Member States to the ECDC, and the ECDC’s capacity to communicate with the general public, pointing out that ‘crises not only require extraordinary responses from public administrations, but also extraordinary efforts to maintain public trust’.151 The Ombudsman is playing a key role in securing and/or encouraging a new mode of ‘proactive transparency’152 of data supporting executive decisions in response to Covid-19. At the same time, it is calling for the ECDC’s formal powers to be enhanced. The Ombudsman’s calls for increased ECDC capacity and formal powers will feed into broader discussions about a ‘European Health Union’ and the ‘Conference on the Future of Europe’ (see Part I above).

IV.  Public Health Measures, Enforcement and Compliance

51.  The European Union’s responses to the Covid-19 pandemic were constrained by the formal legal competences of the EU institutions, as well as by the lack of political will among Member States, especially initially, to act collectively rather than individually at national or sub-national/regional level.153 Many relevant public health measures were taken by each Member State acting alone, and are discussed in the relevant country reports, rather than in this report, which focuses only on EU-level action. The EU’s general approach may be characterised as strongly focused on coordination and sharing of information and scientific advice; partnership and collaboration with Member States, drawing on the benefits of economies of scale. The EU adopted few legally binding public health measures that harmonise national level responses, mainly in the context of the internal market, and mostly relied on guidance and other forms of soft law. This narrow approach to the EU’s competence has been the subject of criticism.154

A.  Public health measures

52.  In the EU’s multilevel governance system, many public health measures are a matter of national, or sub-national, competence. The EU’s role has, in general, been to provide advice, guidance, and to recommend, rather than to adopt binding measures. The European Commission’s guidance also seeks to support the well-functioning of the EU’s ‘internal market’, an area within which products, services, people, and capital are permitted to move with minimum hindrance. The internal market is profoundly challenged by many public health measures put in place to combat Covid-19, especially those curtailing freedom of movement for human beings.

53.  The European Commission adopted several general Communications to coordinate the public health measures adopted by the Member States (see Part I above). In April 2020, the Commission, together with the European Council, published the Joint European Roadmap towards lifting COVID-19 containment measures (‘Roadmap’) providing recommendations to the Member States, applicable since 17 April 2020.155 The Roadmap was concerned with providing a common framework for the lifting of Covid-19 containment measures such as travel bans, prohibitions of gatherings/events, national restrictions on movement, or the closure of non-essential shops or schools. It can be seen as a benchmarking exercise, within which Member States exercise their public health powers.156 The Roadmap presents a set of three criteria—epidemiological evidence showing a decrease in spread of the disease, sufficient health system capacity, and appropriate monitoring capacity in terms of testing—to be taken into account by the Member States when they decide about the relaxation of public health measures in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. It stresses the individual decision-making power of the Member States, meaning that it is recognised that the detailed measures will differ and that relaxation of measures will appear at different points in time. However, the Commission and the European Council emphasise, as guiding principles, actions based on science, coordination of the measures, and their notification to other Member States and the Commission, as well as respect and solidarity between the EU’s Member States.

54.  However, the EU has very little competence to adopt legally binding harmonising measures that would directly affect the legal situation of individuals, especially where non-pharmaceutical responses to the pandemic are concerned. Yet, the role of the EU in providing scientific and technical guidance to the Member States, in an attempt to coordinate national measures, prevent disruption of the functioning of the internal market, and enhance the efficiency of the Covid-19 response measures adopted on national level, should not be underestimated. The EU’s agencies, especially the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, have offered a vast amount of guidance based on their assessment of the scientific evidence. The European Commission also sought to coordinate scientific guidance, through a ‘scientific advice platform’ bringing together scientific advisors to national governments of the EU Member States, which has been meeting once or twice a month since October 2020.157 Moreover, the Health Securities Committee offered a platform for discussion and coordination amongst Member States. Nonetheless, given the mostly non-binding form of the measures discussed below, it is important to note that guidance adopted at EU-level was not necessarily used or followed at national level. Whether it was followed should be assessed on the basis of the individual country reports.

1.  Individual mobility restrictions on citizens (stay-at-home, curfews, etc)

55.  The EU is not competent to engage in the restriction of individual mobility by imposing stay-at-home orders or curfews. Where stay-at-home orders restrict the free movement of persons within the EU, they are discussed in the following section. However, in an effort to support and coordinate the non-pharmaceutical responses, the Commission also addressed individual mobility restrictions in its more general policy guidance documents.

56.  In July 2020, the Commission, pointing to the economic as well as social costs and the impact on the free movement of people and goods, called on the Member States to ‘avoid large-scale lockdown measures’ in favour of ‘targeted and localised medical countermeasures’.158 However, the risks were evaluated differently in the winter of 2020, when, before the festive season, the Commission adopted its Communication on Staying safe from COVID-19 during winter, in which it ‘strongly encouraged’ the Member States to maintain or introduce curfews,159 together with other measures, discussed in the following sections.

57.  Importantly, the ECDC has continuously provided scientific advice on non-pharmaceutical responses to the pandemic. While the ECDC Guidelines for the use of non-pharmaceutical measures from February 2020 had not yet included stay-at-home orders as potential measures,160 at the end of March 2020, when the majority of EU countries had implemented stay-at-home policies (voluntary or enforced) as a response to the drastically increased infection rate, the ECDC provided guidance on considerations to take into account when adjusting and lifting stay-at-home orders.161 In September 2020, the ECDC stated that ‘[s]tay-at-home measures are a last-resort option due to their significant impact on both society and individuals. Targeted implementation, both geographically and temporally, is preferred and can be considered to control outbreaks which are not responding to other measures. Available evidence does not prove that stay-at-home measures are more effective than other measures, such as the closing of (some) high-risk businesses.’162 In March 2021, the ECDC published a framework for fine-tuning non-pharmaceutical responses which can serve as a guide to Member States seeking to adjust their Covid-19 response measures, including the introduction or lifting of stay-at-home orders and curfews.163

2.  Restrictions on international and internal travel

58.  The free movement of persons is one of the four freedoms of the EU’s internal market and a core ‘constitutional’ value of the EU deeply intertwined with EU citizenship.164 It is not surprising, therefore, that restrictions on intra-EU travel, as well as on travel into the EU from third countries imposed by the Member States, often combined with the reintroduction of border control measures within the EU, became a core concern in the EU’s Covid-19 response.

59.  In principle, EU citizens may move freely within the EU. The power to restrict the free movement of persons within the EU on a narrow list of public interest objectives, and to limit the entrance of third country citizens into the internal market on the basis of public health, lies with the Member States, subject to compliance with EU law and potential judicial control by the EU.165 Where Member States introduce measures limiting the free movement of persons, as they did during the Covid-19 pandemic based on the justification of public health protection, these measures must be proportionate and are subject to procedural safeguards as laid down in Directive 2004/38 on Citizens Rights.166 Many of the EU measures discussed in the following have as their aim to provide a framework for assessing the proportionality of national measures by providing harmonised criteria on when travel restrictions should be maintained or lifted.

60.  Specifically with regard to the reintroduction of border controls, for those Member States within the Schengen arrangements, the Schengen Borders Code is also relevant.167 Currently 22 of the EU Member States, as well as Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein, are part of the Schengen Area—Member States that are not part of the Schengen Area are Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, and Romania—which abolished border controls, but provides the possibility for countries to exceptionally and temporarily reintroduce border controls in case of a serious threat to public policy and internal security,168 which is deemed to also include the ‘risk posed by a contagious disease’.169 Notably, the Schengen Borders Code itself does not expressly mention public health as a reason for the reintroduction of Border Controls. The reintroduction of border controls must be notified to the other Schengen members and the Commission, while simultaneously informing the European Parliament and the Council.170

61.  In March 2020, almost all EU Member States introduced measures that closed their borders and reintroduced border controls,171 restricting the free movement of persons within the EU and travel from third countries into the EU, in a diverging and inconsistent manner in terms of the scope of the measures.172 These uncoordinated and diverging national measures triggered a response on the EU level aiming to coordinate travel restrictions and facilitate the free movement of EU citizens to the largest extent possible. These response measures were mostly adopted as non-binding soft law—Commission Communications and Guidelines, Council Recommendations, and technical/scientific guidance of EU agencies and expert bodies. This use of soft law measures is in itself remarkable, because in the area of free movement of persons the EU has far reaching legislative competence and could use mechanisms such as the infringement procedure to guard a core value such as free movement of EU citizens against unjustified interference.173 Therefore, the legality of the reintroduction of border controls and travel restrictions for citizens within the EU is by no means undisputed.174 Yet, although instruments like Council Recommendations are not legally binding instruments and depend on the implementation of Member States, especially in the context of the travel restrictions within the EU, at least according to some commentators, they proved to be effective measures to coordinate national restrictions.175

62.  As an initial measure on 16 March 2020, the European Commission adopted a Communication to the European Parliament, European Council, and the Council on COVID-19: Temporary Restriction on Non-Essential Travel to the EU,176 calling on the European Council to adopt a coordinated decision concerning the temporary restriction of non-essential travel from third countries into the EU, as measures by individual Member States are ineffective to control the EU’s external borders. At this time, the Commission was still of the view that closing the EU’s external borders would facilitate lifting travel restrictions within the EU. The Commission recommended the temporary restriction of non-essential travel from third countries into the EU for 30 days, with potential prolongation after assessment. The Communication made clear that citizens of EU Member States as well as Schengen Associated States (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland) when returning to their homes must be exempted. This exemption also applied to their family members, as well as long-term residents under Directive 2003/109/EC,177 as well as other persons who derive a right of residence from EU law, Member State national law, or national long-term visas. Rather than defining non-essential travel, the Communication provided a non-exhaustive list of essential functions and needs, which included: (i) healthcare professionals, health researchers, and elderly care professionals; (ii) frontier workers; (iii) transport personnel engaged in haulage of goods and other transport staff to the extent necessary; (iv) diplomats, staff of international organisations, military personnel, and humanitarian aid workers in the exercise of their functions; (v) passengers in transit; (vi) passengers travelling for imperative family reasons; and (vii) persons in need of international protection or for other humanitarian reasons. Terms like ’imperative family reasons’ were not further defined in the Communication. The Commission Communication of 16 March was phrased as a (non-binding) recommendation to the European Council, calling on the Heads of States or Government of the Schengen Member States to adopt these measures in coordination with the Schengen Associated States.

63.  On the same day, the Commission adopted Guidelines for border management measures to protect health and ensure the availability of goods and essential services,178 in order to establish common principles for border management, calling on the Member States to ensure that their border control measures do not interrupt the supply of essential goods (via so called ‘green lanes’) and to maintain the free movement of goods and supply chain integrity.179 The guidance also proposed measures for the external border, calling on the Member States to put in place screening measures for travellers. For the internal EU borders, the guidance states that it would be acceptable for Member States to ‘reintroduce temporary border controls at internal borders if justified for reasons of public policy or internal security’.180 However the measures must be proportionate, non-discriminatory, and based on the health of the individual. Thus, although the guidance constitutes soft law, it reminds the Member State to act within the legally binding procedural rules applicable to the adoption of such measures under EU law.181

64.  On 30 March 2020, following up on this Guideline, the Commission adopted Guidelines concerning the exercise of the free movement of workers during COVID-19 outbreak for frontier workers, posted workers, and seasonal workers, especially those exercising critical occupations,182 advocating a coordinated EU approach to ensuring that these persons can continue to cross borders, but at the same time leaving room for health screening under the same conditions as for nationals working in the same professions.

65.  In April 2020, the Commission published the Joint European Roadmap towards lifting COVID-19 containment measures,183 applicable since 17 April 2020. In terms of travel restrictions, the Roadmap advocates a staged approach of first lifting internal border measures unilaterally adopted by the Member States in a coordinated manner when the epidemiological situation permits, placing priority on ensuring the free movement of cross-border workers and service providers. Opening of external borders and lifting of travel restrictions for non-EU residents was envisaged in a second stage. The Roadmap makes reference to various adopted or planned guidance measures. It was supplemented by a ‘Tourism and Transport Package’ aimed at introducing a phased approach towards reopening travel and supporting the tourism and hospitality sector.184

66.  In the following adoption of measures in terms of travel restrictions, the EU adopted a bifurcated approach, on the one hand, addressing the restrictions on travel and the free movement of persons within the EU, and on the other hand, adopting measures for the travel restrictions to be enforced against travellers from third countries at the EU’s external borders.

2.1  Restrictions on travel within the EU

67.  After the initial disharmony in terms of uncoordinated and individually adopted travel restrictions by the Member States and the first steps towards more harmonisation via the European Roadmap, in October 2020,185 the Council, acting upon a Commission proposal,186 adopted its first Recommendation concerning travel restrictions as an attempt towards lifting the restrictions on free movement within the EU. The Recommendation aimed to provide a coordinated framework for the Member States upon which to base their decisions surrounding the adoption of travel restrictions or border control measures, to prevent a patchwork of different approaches throughout the EU. Central to the Recommendation is the establishment of common criteria on which the adoption of measures should be based: the 14-day cumulative case notification rate per 100,000 people; the test positivity rate; as well as the testing rate, ie the number of infection tests per 100,000. Data on these parameters is provided by the Member States to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, which has attempted to harmonise national testing strategies (see Part IV.A.8 below). The ECDC subsequently processed the data and turned it into a weekly map showing the countries marked in green, orange, and red.187 The criteria for a country to be a certain colour was laid down in the Recommendation, which on the basis of this categorisation proposed potential measures such as imposing a quarantine or testing for travellers. As a common threshold, it was agreed in the Council that the free movement of persons to or from green areas should not be restricted.

68.  In early February 2021, this Recommendation was amended, taking into account the start of the vaccination campaign and the increase in testing capacity, but also the spread of new, more infectious virus variants.188 ‘Dark red’ was introduced as a new category to apply to areas with very high infection levels. Member States were called upon to discourage non-essential travel—as before, not explicitly defined in the Recommendation, which refers only to travellers with an essential function or need—to red and dark red areas. On 14 June 2021, the Recommendation was updated again, opening up the possibility for Member States to take into account factors like vaccination uptake and the prevalence of virus variants of concern or interest, in their decisions.189 Most importantly, the update introduced changes to adapt the Recommendation for the entry into force of the EU Digital COVID-19 Certificate, exempting persons in possession of a Certificate from additional measures such as testing and quarantining. The Member States agreed on a standard duration of validity of test results, and determined when a person would be regarded as fully vaccinated and for how long persons will not be subject to restrictions because they recovered from a Covid-19 infection.

69.  The measures to coordinate Member State responses are supplemented by the EU with several tools that are meant to provide information to citizens about the epidemiological situation in various Member States via the ECDC and the Re-Open EU portal.190 Through providing a basis for informed decision-making to travellers, the EU intends to facilitate travel and tourism as far as the situation in the Member States permits.

2.2  Restrictions on travel into the EU

70.  Regarding the EU’s external borders and travel into the EU from third countries, the actions of the Member States were more coordinated from an earlier stage of the pandemic. After the Commission had recommended, on 16 March 2020, restricting non-essential travel into the EU for 30 days,191 the Heads of State or Government of the EU and the four Schengen Associated States agreed to implement the temporary restriction of non-essential travel in their respective States on the following day.192 What is sometimes referred to as the EU entry-ban was thus not initially based on a legally binding measure, but rather the coordination of Member State action by means of executive soft law in the form of a Commission Communication and an agreement within the European Council, leading to concerted national measures in the Schengen area.

71.  After several prolongations of the restrictions of travel into the EU recommended by the Commission,193 the time had come in summer 2020 to move forward with a common strategy towards lifting the restrictions. The Council, upon proposal by the Commission,194 adopted its first measure on the restrictions on non-essential travel into the EU on 30 June 2020,195 asking the Member States to lift their restrictions on non-essential travel into the EU starting from 1 July 2020 for certain countries.196 EU citizens and citizens of Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, as well as their respective family members; long-term residents and their families; as well as people with essential functions such as healthcare workers or diplomats are exempted. The Recommendation contained a list of third countries in its annex for which the restrictions should be lifted and travel into the EU for their residents should be facilitated. This list is regularly updated through amendments. The Recommendation determined that third countries would be included in the list on the basis of epidemiological criteria, including the number of Covid-19 cases, also taking into account trends such as decreasing case numbers, as well as the overall response of the country in question in terms of testing and containment.

72.  The Recommendation concerning travel into the EU was amended on 20 May 2021. It aims to coordinate lifting of travel restrictions and quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated individuals travelling into the EU from third countries, as well as the lifting of restrictions for certain countries.197 However, so that Member States could react swiftly to changing epidemiological situations or the occurrence of virus mutations, the measure contains an ‘Emergency Brake’ mechanism, leaving room for Member States to individually adopt rapid, temporary travel restrictions, subject to subsequent discussion and coordination at EU-level.

73.  The travel policies mentioned above were supplemented by the ECDC with scientific guidance, assessing the travel-related risks of Covid-19 transmission and giving consideration to potential responses.198 The ECDC advised on quarantine and testing requirements, also in the context of the arising Covid-19 variants.199 In cooperation with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the ECDC adopted an Aviation Health Safety Protocol which is regularly updated and also contains guidance on testing and quarantine.200 Travel by ship201 and rail202 also received attention from the ECDC.

2.3  The ‘EU Digital Certificate’

74.  With regard to both travel within the EU and travel from third countries into the EU, the next big step towards a coordinated lifting of restrictions was made through the EU Digital COVID-19 Certificate, which should be placed in the context of the attempts to coordinate reestablishment of free movement within the EU and opening towards travel from third countries in view of the summer and vacation season of 2021.203 The Commission proposed two Regulations, one for a common EU certificate that attests Covid-19 vaccination, testing, and recovery for EU citizens and their families,204 and a second, complementary measure with a certificate for third-country nationals who are legally staying or residing in the EU.205

75.  The two measures were adopted by the European Parliament and the Council on 14 June 2021.206 The measures are applicable as of 1 July 2021 and, while the Commission proposal had foreseen the suspension at the end of the pandemic with a possibility to reactivate,207 it establishes a concrete end date for the applicability of Regulation 2021/953/EU on 30 June 2022 subject to potential prolongation through adoption of a legislative proposal, should this be required in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.208 Regulation 2021/953/EU which establishes the EU Digital COVID-19 Certificate is adopted on the basis of Article 21(2) TFEU and thus applies to EU citizens and their families, whereas Regulation 2021/954/EU, based on Article 77(2)(c) TFEU and building upon the Schengen acquis, makes the certificate accessible to third country nationals legally staying and residing in the territory of the Member States, under the same conditions as EU citizens.

76.  Legally speaking, the certificate as introduced by Regulation 2021/953/EU is not required for persons to exercise their free movement rights.209 The core idea of the certificate is that the freedom of movement, without conditions like testing or quarantining, will be facilitated for persons who can prove that they have either been fully vaccinated with a vaccine centrally authorised in the EU under Regulation 726/2004/EU,210 or have tested negative for Covid-19, or recovered from an infection. The issuing of the certificate is organised by the Member States. The individual Member States may also accept vaccines which were authorised on a national basis under Directive 2001/83/EC, temporarily authorised under Article 5(2) of Directive 2001/83/EC, or completed the WHO Emergency Use Listing procedure.211 The main concerns for the EU are that the certificate, which will be issued by the Member States, is interoperable and mutually recognised, as well as compatibility with data protection and privacy.212

77.  Regulation 2021/953/EU also contains provisions on certificates issued by non-EU countries. According to Article 8(1) a person that has been vaccinated in a non-EU country with a centrally authorised vaccine—or, where accepted by the Member State, a vaccine authorised by another Member State or WHO Emergency Use listed vaccine—can request a Member State to issue an EU COVID-19 Digital Certificate. This provision allows third country certificates to be in effect translated into EU certificates, on an individual basis. Moreover, under Article 8(2) the Commission may, via the adoption of an implementing act, confirm that certificates issued by third countries are equivalent to the EU certificates issued by the Member States. The certificates issued by these countries are accepted in the EU under the same conditions as the EU certificate and vice versa. Via this option, by November 2021, 24 countries had joined the EU Digital Certificate system: Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Switzerland, Faroe Islands, Georgia, Israel, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Moldova, Monaco, Morocco, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Panama, San Marino, Serbia, Singapore, Togo, Turkey, Ukraine, THE United Kingdom, and the Vatican.

78.  The Digital EU COVID-19 Certificate is not uncontested, including because it makes the right of free movement conditional upon certification,213 while access to testing and vaccination remains a national competence, and thus there is the risk of inequalities.214 Moreover, as the certificate needs to be checked, it will lead to the de facto reintroduction of border controls within the EU. At the time of writing (January 2022), the Digital EU COVID-19 Certificate Regulation is subject to an ongoing act of annulment procedure at the General Court, challenging the Regulation as discriminatory against unvaccinated people and an unlawful restriction of their free movement rights.215 A request for interim measures concerning the suspension of application of the Regulation was denied by the General Court.216

3.  Limitations on public and private gatherings and events

79.  As with most non-pharmaceutical interventions, the EU has no competence to introduce limitations on public and private gatherings. Again, the role of the European Commission was to coordinate national measures as far as possible and make general policy recommendations in terms of Covid-19 response measures, supported by the scientific advice of the ECDC. The Member States remained free to follow this guidance or not, with no consequences in terms of their EU law obligations. Especially in preparation for winter 2020, the Commission called on Member States to maintain measures limiting social contacts, including closure of public places and limitations of the number of people for indoor and outdoor gatherings.217 The Commission strongly encouraged Member States to consider: ‘not allowing mass gatherings and define clear criteria for exceptional events’, ‘defin[ing] clear criteria for small social gatherings’, ‘continu[ing] to set clear criteria for household gatherings’, ‘encourag[ing] the organisation of online social gatherings’, and it also recommended that ‘any temporary loosening of rules on social gatherings and events should be accompanied by strict requirements for people to self-quarantine before and after for a number of days (preferably at least seven)’.218

80.  In terms of scientific guidance, early on in its rapid risk assessments, the ECDC not only discussed the risk level of the pandemic for the EU, but also provided countermeasures which it stressed were ‘necessary’. These included social distancing, including the cancellation of mass gatherings.219 In February 2020, the ECDC found that the ‘cancellation of mass gatherings in the EU/EEA may be justified in exceptional cases’ and should be based on ‘a risk assessment, taking into consideration the severity of the epidemic, the local epidemiological situation, the timing, duration, type of venue (indoor/outdoor), the size of the event, and the area the attendees are coming from (affected or non-affected).’220 However, additional guidance in September 2020 also clarified that ‘[l]imiting the size of indoor and outdoor gatherings is a measure to reduce the likelihood of SARS-Co-V-2 spreading to large numbers of people. It is recommended when there is community transmission, regardless of the incidence levels’.221

4.  Closure of premises and facilities (eg schools, shops, services, parks, churches, sport facilities)

81.  The closure of premises and facilities falls squarely within the competence of the Member States and there is virtually no room for EU action in this regard. Even the Commission Communication on Staying safe from COVID-19 during winter in December 2020, which contained the most concrete recommendations on non-pharmaceutical intervention, remained largely silent on this topic.222 The only relevant reference to schools is that the Commission recommended the Member States to consider the extension of school holidays or a switch to online learning before and after the holidays.223 As for churches, the Commission recommended encouraging online services and avoiding larger services in person, and it also stressed the importance of requiring face masks and the banning of singing.224 Member States have adopted national policies on such matters (see the relevant country reports).

82.  In spring 2021, the Commission did address the effect the Covid-19 crisis had especially on the cultural, hospitality, and tourism sector and in its strategy for re-opening promised to develop guidance for the safe reopening of that sector.225 The Commission guidance, which was developed together with the ECDC and the Health Security Committee, was published in June 2021, with the aim of providing a common approach to reopening the sector based on indicators to be taken into account by the Member States.226

83.  The ECDC guidance, on the other hand, extensively addressed the closure of premises and facilities, especially schools. When providing guidance on school closures already featured in the list of potential measures in February 2020, while the ECDC noted that ‘[s]chool children and children attending day-care facilities are considered to be one of the main drivers of respiratory virus spread in the community’, it pointed out that their role in Covid-19 transmission is unclear and that proactive closures during the containment phase of the pandemic ‘are not justified’.227 However, in March 2020, due to the changed/different epidemiological risk level, school closures were deemed necessary.228 In September 2020, the ECDC advised that reactive school closures in the situation of widespread transmission may be necessary, however, pointing out that they will ‘probably not reduce the impact of the epidemic, but may be necessary due to high absenteeism and operation issues.’229 Since August 2020, the ECDC has published guidance on the role of children and schools in the transmission of the virus,230 as well as the objectives of Covid-19 testing in schools.231 On a more general level, the ECDC provides advice on the closure of non-essential businesses excluding grocery stores and pharmacies,232 and also factors measures such as school closure or closure of gyms and restaurants into its framework for fine-tuning non-pharmaceutical responses, published in March 2021. The ECDC does not define ‘non-essential businesses’, presumably because this is left to national level public health measures.

5.  Physical distancing

84.  Physical distancing was recognised as a key prevention mechanism for the spread of Covid-19, but again the EU is not competent to adopt legislation on this matter. Member States were not precluded by EU law from adopting different strategies. Yet, the Commission recalled the importance of these measures and called on Member States to pursue them.233

85.  The ECDC, however, since early on in the pandemic in March 2020, has published information videos aimed at the general public on the importance of physical distancing.234 The agency, throughout the pandemic, stressed the importance of physical distancing, and its correct application by the public, in its guidance.235

6.  Use of face coverings and personal protective equipment (PPE)

86.  The EU does not have competence to take legal measures ordering all or certain population groups to wear face coverings or other personal protective equipment (PPE)—again, the Member States were free to adopt different approaches. However, the EU undertook action to ensure the availability of PPE by several means. First of all, to ensure the availability of medical devices, the Commission postponed the application of the new Medical Device Regulation, which was meant to become applicable on 26 May 2020, for one year, in order to not burden producers and authorities additionally.236

87.  As medical devices are regulated products and—depending on their level of risk—require certification before being allowed on the market,237 the Commission undertook measures to remove some barriers in this regard. In March 2020, it called on notified bodies to prioritise the conformity assessment of medical devices required in the context of the pandemic,238 and it also adopted guidance on derogations from certification requirements which allow national authorities to allow non-CE-marked products on the market.239 Furthermore, upon request of the Commission, the standards for certain goods like masks and protective clothing were made available for free, to enable faster market access for new equipment manufactured by companies that were not traditionally producing those items and had to familiarise themselves with the standards.240 Additionally, revised standards were adopted with a faster conformity assessment procedure.241

88.  The fact that certain Member States in the beginning of the pandemic adopted export bans or restrictions on goods like PPE was a source of concern for the EU.242 In order to encourage the lifting of national bans while ensuring the sufficient availability of equipment within the EU, the Commission adopted two subsequent Implementing Regulations which temporarily made the export to third countries of certain goods (including PPE and face masks) subject to an export authorisation to be issued by national competent authorities.243 Under the second export restrictions scheme applicable from 26 April until 26 May 2020, according to the Commission, the Member States received over 1,300 authorisation requests of which 95% were approved.244

89.  Moreover, the Commission coordinated the Joint Public Procurement for medical equipment,245 and also eased the public procurement rules applicable to national procurement.246 Moreover, the EU financed stockpiling of medical equipment which was redistributed to the Member States under the rescEU mechanism.247

90.  As with other non-pharmaceutical interventions, the EU also provided scientific support in terms of assessing the use of face masks and other personal protective equipment as Covid-19 response measures via the ECDC. In the early stages of the pandemic, this mainly concerned the use of facemasks and other protective equipment for health-care workers, while it was stated that ‘[t]here is no evidence on the usefulness of facemasks worn by persons who are not ill as a community mitigation measure’.248 This changed in April 2020 with an expert opinion of the ECDC, stating that although the use of facemasks in healthcare settings must be prioritized, ‘use of face masks in public may serve as a means of source control to reduce the spread of the infection in the community ‘and that ‘use of face masks in the community could be considered, especially when visiting busy, closed spaces, such as grocery stores, shopping centres, or when using public transport, etc.’249 More extensive guidance on the effectiveness of the use of facemasks was provided in February 2021, making clear that the effectiveness is small to moderate and should be relied on as a complementary measure with other non-pharmaceutical interventions.250

7.  Isolation of infected individuals and quarantine of individuals suspected of infection

91.  Isolation of infected individuals and quarantine of individuals suspected of infection only became of concern for the EU in the context of travel restrictions (see above), but there is no competence for the EU to order such measures. However, in this context, again, it was the ECDC that provided (non-binding) scientific advice to the Member States including isolation timelines for different types of Covid-19 cases,251 and also published an information leaflet aimed at the general public for national authorities to use.252

8.  Testing, treatment, and vaccination

92.  A first response of the EU was to raise financial resources for the development of medical products: in May 2020, the European Commission, launched a pledging marathon and itself pledged significant financial resources for the funding of diagnostics, as well as treatments and vaccines, which was joined by the Member States and other governments around the world, raising almost EUR 16 billion.253

93.  However, in this area the activities of the EU were quite wide-ranging and did not stop with the funding of research. In the regulation of medical devices like those used for testing and also for pharmaceuticals, the EU has extensive competence—as will become clear from the following analysis—to ensure their quality, safety, and efficacy. However, generally questions like the purchase of such products or stockpiling them is a matter for the Member States. The same holds true for questions of regulating access, reimbursement, or pricing.

8.1  Testing

94.  As far as testing is concerned, especially at the beginning of the pandemic, Covid-19 tests were a scarce resource and there was divergence in the testing policies and methods of the Member States.254 The EU supported the Member States via launching joint public procurement processes, for example with regard to laboratory equipment.255 Moreover, with increasing scientific progress on testing, the Commission supported the Member States by procuring rapid antigen tests funded by the Emergency Support Instrument (ESI).256

95.  However, the role of the EU extended beyond the procurement of tests, because Covid-19 tests are medical devices which are subject to regulation in the EU.257 In April 2020, the Commission adopted guidance on the application of the EU’s in vitro medical device legislation to Covid-19 tests for professional use and for self-tests, strongly recommending that additional clinical performance tests are carried out for the test for clinical use by national competent authorities and reference laboratories before they are introduced in the clinical routine.258 The Commission provided guidance on performance criteria.259

96.  While the development of testing strategies is a national competence, at the end of October 2020, the Commission adopted guidance on Covid-19 testing strategies, making recommendations on prioritisation and asking Member States to define criteria for the selection of rapid antigen tests.260 This guidance supplemented the coordination of the testing strategies in the framework of the Health Securities Committee, where recommendations for a common testing approach were adopted in September 2020,261 and the guidance on Covid-19 testing was adopted by the ECDC.262 In November 2020, the Commission added guidance on the use of rapid antigen testing, setting selection criteria for test and recommended setting of use.263 It called on Member States to make use of the technical guidance by the ECDC when validating the tests,264 and emphasised the importance of mutual recognition of test results.

97.  In terms of rapid antigen testing, the Council followed up on the Commission guidance in January 2021 with a Recommendation on the use of rapid antigen tests and mutual recognition of Covid-19 test results.265 The Health Securities Committee adopted a common list of rapid antigen tests, the results of which will be mutually recognised.266

98.  The EU interest—both of the Commission and the Council—in coherent testing strategies amongst the Member States was not only based on public health reasons, but also on the realisation that the free movement of persons depends on the mutual recognition of test results. Therefore, the EU was involved in supporting the supply of tests, but also attempted to streamline the testing strategies of the Member States, based on scientific advice of the ECDC. In January 2021, the Commission called on Member States to urgently improve genome sequencing to track the spread of virus variants.267 In March 2021, when Covid-19 self-tests entered the market, their use in the testing strategies became a discussion item in the Health Securities Committee,268 and the ECDC published guidance on their use.269

8.2  Vaccination

99.  Vaccination, as was clear from the beginning of the pandemic, would form a central pillar of the public health response to the pandemic. By contrast to other fields of health law, the EU does have legislative powers when it comes to the regulation of pharmaceuticals such as vaccines,270 and these products are subject to EU law throughout their life-cycle from development, clinical trials, manufacturing, marketing, and post-marketing surveillance (‘pharmacovigilance’).271 However, the development of vaccination policies—such as the definition of priority groups, and so on—as well as the actual conduct of the vaccination campaigns—such as the modalities of their implementation, for example who administers vaccines and where they are administered—falls within the remit of the Member States.

100.  On a more programmatic level, the European Commission published its Communication for the EU Strategy for Covid-19 vaccines in June 2020,272 based on centralisation of Advance Purchase Agreements with vaccines under development, as well as on ensuring sufficient regulatory flexibility in the regulatory framework applicable to vaccines and their respective authorisation procedures in response to this public health crisis.273 While the first negotiations with vaccine producers were concluded and potential vaccines were subject to review by the European Medicines Agency, the Commission published a Communication on preparedness for Covid-19 vaccination strategies and vaccine deployment in October 2020.274 This Communication includes an action plan with a timeline for Member States, specifying a list of proposed actions which Member States should take in terms of ensuring the capacity of the vaccination services, preparing for the deployment of different vaccines which might require specific storage and transport infrastructure, and maintaining registries to ensure the collection of vaccination data. The Communication also contained an indication with regard to potential priority groups (health care workers, senior citizens, essential workers outside the health sector, etc), and called on the Member States to define priority lists for the targeting of certain population groups and to start modelling—with support of the ECDC275—their vaccination strategies. The Communication was mostly limited to establishing priorities and important considerations in the development of the national strategies, leaving a lot of room for divergent national vaccination policies, for example with regard to determination of the priority groups to receive vaccinations first. Yet, the role the Commission played in the coordination of the vaccination strategy is remarkable and noteworthy in terms of the competence division between the EU and its Member States.

101.  In terms of the marketing authorisation of the vaccines, the EU played a central role as they were authorised via the centralised procedure,276 which involved a benefit-risk assessment of the vaccine based on its quality, safety, and efficacy by the EMA and authorisation Decision by the European Commission based on this EMA opinion, which is valid throughout the EU. By January 2022, five Covid-19 vaccines had received a conditional marketing authorisation in the EU: Comirnaty (BioNTech/Pfizer); Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca); Spikevax (Moderna); Covid-19 vaccine Janssen; and Nuvaxovid (Novavax). In the EU, no specific emergency authorisation procedure for pandemics exists or was introduced. The conditional marketing authorisation as foreseen in Article 14(7) of Regulation 726/2004/EC for situations like a public health emergency or other unmet medical needs, allowed for a more rapid authorisation.277 It entails that, where a medicinal product has a positive benefit-risk balance, it can be authorised where certain data, like the duration of immunisation after vaccination, needs to still be generated by the applicant. According to Commission Regulation (EC) 507/2006,278 such conditional authorisations are granted for products fulfilling an unmet medical need which do have a positive benefit-risk balance, but not all data for a full authorisation is available yet. The missing data needs to be provided by the applicant before the conditional authorisation can be converted into a regular one. It is worth mentioning that EU law does provide the possibility under Article 5(2) Directive 2001/83/EC to temporarily authorise the distribution of an unauthorised pharmaceutical product. This option was used for instance by the UK—which was still bound by EU law at the time—for the AstraZeneca vaccine before that vaccine was authorised in the EU;279 and by Hungary to authorise the Sputnik V vaccine.280

102.  The marketing authorisation process adhered to the usual standards of a risk assessment of the quality, safety, and efficacy of the vaccines in question. However, it was accelerated through the EMA providing scientific advice early in the development process and the use of the so-called ‘rolling review’ where the EMA starts review of scientific data as they become available as opposed to when the full marketing authorisation dossier is ready.281 This approach speeds up the review process without compromising on the completeness of the data to be reviewed. By January 2022, four vaccines were under rolling review at the European Medicines Agency (Sputnik V (Gam-COVID-Vac); Covid-19 Vaccine (Vero Cell) Inactivated; Vidprevtyn; and VLA2001). CureVac had withdrawn its vaccine CVnCoV from rolling review in October 2021.

103.  The role of the EMA in the context of the pandemic response has been subject to review by the European Ombudsman (see Part III.G above), where the inquiry was closed with a positive view of the Ombudsman especially in terms of the transparency of the EMA activities.282 The Ombudsman also confirmed that the refusal of the EMA to grant access to certain documents detailing the manufacturing of the mRNA vaccines was justified.283 The applicants contested the positive benefit/risk balance and the fulfilment of conditions to grant a conditional marketing authorisation.284 In line with the well-established case law concerning the standing for act of annulment procedures (see Part III.C above), the cases were declared inadmissible by the General Court due to a lack of interest of the applicants in bringing an action, as well as the absence of direct and individual concern.285 The lawyer that brought the strategic litigation against the four conditional marketing authorisation procedures filed two new cases in November 2021, this time concerning the authorisation extension of Cominarty and Spikevax for children from the age of 12.286

104.  As far as vaccine procurement is concerned, the Commission had agreed with the Member States to centrally procure vaccines, with the Commission coordinating a negotiation team that included experts from national administrations.287 In this context, the Commission used the Emergency Support Instrument288 in order to conclude Advance Purchasing Agreements with vaccine producers. These agreements are entered into by the Commission on behalf of the Member States. For the right to buy the respective vaccines, the Commission contributes to the costs faced by the companies in the production process. By December 2021, advance purchase agreements were in place with Sanofi-GSK, Novavax, Valneva, and CureVac (the latter having withdrawn its marketing authorisation application), while purchase agreements were concluded for the four authorised vaccines.289

105.  The vaccine procurement was subject to an inquiry by the European Ombudsman (see Part III.G above), who was especially concerned with the transparency of the process, both the negotiation of the agreements,290 and the publication of redacted agreements.291 In September 2021, the Ombudsman opened an inquiry concerning access to text messages between the Commission President and the CEO of a pharmaceutical company concerning a vaccine purchase.292 Moreover, by December 2021, three cases were pending before the CJEU in the context of the vaccine procurement, as a German citizen had requested access to several documents, which was denied by the Commission.293

106.  In January 2021, the European Commission called on the Member States to speed up their vaccination campaigns.294 By the end of June 2021 over half of the EU population had received one vaccine dose and over one third were fully vaccinated,295 and by early November 2021 around 65% of the total EU population, and 76% of adults, were fully vaccinated.296 The progress of national vaccination programmes is monitored and published by the ECDC,297 while the EMA monitors the safety and efficacy of the vaccines on the market.298 Where safety concerns arise, such as with the rare cases of blood clots connected to the AstraZeneca vaccine, the EMA assesses whether the risk/benefit assessment is still positive or if risk prevention measures are needed.299

107.  The EU and its Member States (‘Team Europe’) are a significant contributor to making vaccines available globally, contributing to the COVAX initiative and via its vaccine-sharing mechanism.300 Nonetheless, in order to ensure that the EU Member States receive the vaccines in line with the contracts concluded with the respective producers, the export of vaccines and their active substances from the EU to third countries was made subject to an export authorisation requirement during the year 2021.301 The export to some third countries was excluded from this authorisation scheme. Especially the supply of AstraZeneca vaccine became a concern for the EU, and ultimately led to litigation brought by the European Commission and the Member States against the company before the Court of First Instance in Brussels, which granted interim measures under Belgian civil law, given that the company had committed a serious breach of contract and ordered the delivery of 50 million doses according to a set schedule.302 The dispute between the Commission and AstraZeneca was settled with an agreement concerning the delivery of the remaining doses.303 While the export authorisation requirement was lifted as of 1 January 2022, the Commission maintained an export surveillance scheme.304

108.  In early summer 2021, EU attention shifted towards preparedness for mutations of the virus and the adaptability of the vaccines for such mutations. The European Commission has initiated the HERA Incubator, a bio-defence preparedness plan which aims to detect and respond to Covid-19 mutations.305 The Commission will boost research on variants through funding and has amended the variations procedure, which authorised vaccines must undergo, in order to adjust the authorisation to changes to the vaccine to make it efficient also for respective mutations.306

8.3  Treatment

109.  Whereas the vaccination campaigns got under way quickly, the situation in the EU with regard to Covid-19 treatments progressed more slowly. By July 2020, only Veklury (Remdesivir) had been authorized as treatment for Covid-19 in the EU. By summer 2021, five other treatments had been positively reviewed for use in the EU by the EMA under Article 5(3) of Regulation 726/2004/EC.307 However, there was an urgent need for additional treatments, especially in the context of ‘long Covid-19’, ie the symptoms, like fatigue and shortness of breath, that some Covid-19 infected people experience weeks or months after the infection.308

110.  In May 2021, therefore, the Commission adopted the EU Strategy for Covid-19 therapeutics, including additional funding and potential joint procurement, the establishment of a platform to connect relevant stakeholders in the development of therapeutics, and access to EU-wide clinical trials. Notably, in the Strategy, the Commission states that it considers proposing new legislation containing an EU emergency-use authorisation procedure.

111.  The Strategy seems to have resulted in increased Covid-19 treatments being available in the EU. By January 2022, in addition to Veklury (Remdesivir), five other treatments had received authorisation: Kinaret (Anakinra); Regkirona (Regdanvimab); Ronapreve (Casirivimab/Imdevimab); RoActemra (Tocilizumab); and Zevudy (Sotrovimab). Three further potential treatments were currently undergoing the marketing authorisation procedure and another medicine was currently under rolling review. The EMA keeps an updated website on Covid-19 treatments authorised for marketing in the EU.309

9.  Contact tracing procedures

112.  Most EU Member States have resorted to launching national Covid-19 tracing and warning apps, which can be voluntarily used. No central EU contact tracing and warning app was introduced in the EU, but again the focus at EU level was the coordination of Member State actions and ensuring the interoperability of apps to ensure effectiveness, as well as ensuring compliance with data protection and privacy rules. Some apps, depending on their functions, would qualify as medical devices and therefore be subject to EU legislation.310

113.  In April 2020, the Commission adopted a Recommendation to define guiding principles for those Member States that wanted to introduce such apps.311 This soft law measure included an emphasis on the need for these apps to be voluntary in use, as well as several data protection and privacy concerns like data minimisation and encryption of the data.312 Based on this Recommendation, the Member States, in a forum called the e-Health network,313 supported by the Commission, developed an EU toolbox on contact tracing and warning apps setting baseline requirements and functionalities,314 as well as Guidelines on interoperability315 and further technical details.316 After the Commission had adopted an Implementing Decision on cross-border exchange of data between national Covid-19 apps,317 an EU interoperability gateway went live in October 2020, which connects the national apps and allows the tracing and warning also if the user is travelling within the EU.318 The Implementing Decision is ‘hard’ law, and although it is formally binding only on those Member States which have opted in to the EU’s e-Health network,319 in fact all Member States, plus Norway, have done so.320 The technical work of the Commission and the e-Health network was supported with guidance on the epidemiological use of contact tracing, like the classification of the risk level of a contact, adopted by the ECDC to ensure consistency throughout the EU.321

10.  Measures in long-term care facilities or homes for the elderly, restrictions on visitors, etc

114.  The EU has no competence to adopt measures for long-term care facilities or homes for the elderly, but the Commission has stressed the importance of protecting vulnerable groups including elderly people, especially in residential homes, through monitoring and testing.322 Together with the ECDC, the Commission encouraged Member States to share best practices,323 although, as with many public health provisions, Member States are not obliged to follow the EU’s advice here. Additionally, in May 2020, the ECDC published guidance on monitoring Covid-19 in long-term care facilities, including testing strategies and information on infection prevention.324 This supplemented the guidance on infection prevention in healthcare facilities in general.325

115.  After an increase of fatal cases in long-term care facilities, the ECDC published a rapid risk assessment with guidance on options to respond.326 A second rapid risk assessment taking into account the vaccination coverage was published in July 2021.327 An ECDC surveillance protocol from February 2021,328 and updated guidance on data collection for long-term care facilities with a completed vaccination programme,329 encourage Member States to report data on Covid-19 in their long term care facilities in a way that allows comparison.330 In November 2021, the ECDC published a technical report with the data obtained by this surveillance activity.331

11.  Measures to facilitate cross-border healthcare

116.  One category of public health measures is specific to the EU: the facilitation of cross-border health care. In this regard, the Commission contributed to coordinate the collaboration and mutual support of health care facilities, especially in border regions.332 The Commission was able to build on the long-standing ‘Euregios’, in which health cooperation has been a strong dimension since the 1990s, especially on the Germany-Netherlands, Germany-Netherlands-Belgium, Denmark-Sweden, Finland-Sweden-Norway, and Spain-Portugal borders.333 For example, ‘the Euregio Meuse-Rhine (NL/BE/D) in the Maastricht-Aachen-Liege-Hasselt area set up a tri-lateral crisis management centre (Task Force Corona). The cross-border Cerdanya Hospital (ES) between France and Spain co-operates with French hospitals to share intensive care capacity and personnel, working with the border police to ensure access for patients and health professionals.’334

117.  A special focus from earlier on in the Covid-19 pandemic was to ensure that essential cross-border workers in the healthcare sector, such as health professionals and care workers, were not impaired in reaching their workplace by travel restrictions and border controls, and the Commission called on Member States to ensure this.335 In terms of addressing the shortage of workers in the healthcare sector, this was supplemented by additional guidance adopted in May 2020 on professional training. The guidance supplements and clarifies the core legal measure in the field, Directive 2005/36/EC on the recognition of professional qualifications, which governs the recognition of qualifications for regulated professions such as doctors or nurses.336 The guidance entailed information on certain ways to speed up the mutual recognition of qualifications and clarified how earlier graduation of the 2019–2020 cohort would affect the cross-border recognition.337

118.  While the organisation of healthcare is a Member State competence,338 EU law regulates the rights of patients to cross-border healthcare and the reimbursement of such services.339 In the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Commission adopted guidance on how to coordinate the transfer of Covid-19 patients to other Member States.340

119.  These soft law guidance measures were supplemented by financial support for patient transfer and the transport of medical personnel via the Emergency Support Instrument.341 Moreover, the Health Security Committee, composed of Member States representatives and chaired by the Commission, took an important role in coordinating the assistance provided to each other by the Member States.

B.  Enforcement and compliance

120.  The EU has no powers to enforce public health measures against individuals. The overwhelming majority of the EU’s public health measures are not legally binding, and are addressed to the Member States with the aim of coordinating their respective Covid-19 response measures. Please refer to the country reports of EU Member States for further detail on enforcement in this regard.

121.  When considering the enforcement powers of the EU in the public health context, it should be mentioned that the ‘constitutional’ framework of the EU does foresee the enforcement of EU law against Member States by means of the infringement procedure under Articles 258–260 TFEU. Under this procedure, the Commission—or another Member State—can bring legal action against a Member State breaching its obligations under EU law. According to the annual report of infringement procedures for 2020, the Commission reacted to national export restrictions on protective equipment and medicines relevant in the pandemic with urgent infringement procedures, persuading Member States to lift such restrictions.342 Another area in which the Commission has been actively pursuing infringement procedures against Member States is passenger rights. In July 2020, the European Commission launched infringement proceedings against Italy and Greece for adopting national legislation that allowed vouchers as the only form of reimbursement for travel cancelled by the carrier due to the pandemic, which is contrary to EU law.343 Under the EU passenger rights regulations passengers have the right to choose between reimbursement in money and other forms of refund, such as a voucher. According to the Commission, it opened procedures against a total of 11 Member States to safeguard the rights of passengers, with most procedures being closed after amendment or expiry of the national legislation.344 Ten proceedings were closed, but the Commission’s case against Slovakia is pending.345

122.  Outside the context of the formal infringement procedure, the Commission called upon Member States in February 2021, via a letter by Commissioner Reynders (Justice) and Commissioner Johansson (Home Affairs), to adhere to the Recommendations on travel restrictions.346 Reportedly, six letters were sent to EU Member States individually, calling on them to bring their travel restrictions in line with EU law in March 2021,347 and it is also reported that a letter was sent in April 2021 to Ireland due its introduction of a mandatory hotel quarantine regime which was deemed disproportionate and diverged from the EU Recommendations by requiring travellers from certain EU countries to quarantine at their own costs without exceptions for essential travel.348 However, no formal legal action was taken against Member States.

V.  Social and Employment Protection Measures

123.  The European Union’s social and employment protection measures were consistent with the EU’s limited competence and the principle of subsidiarity. They were also interconnected to the EU’s economic governance powers and processes.

124.  EU responses to the pandemic in the field of social and employment protection measures took three main forms. First, the EU used its own relatively modest resources to offer support, in the form of loans and non-repayable disbursements to its Member States, to aid economic recovery.349 Second, the EU encouraged its Member States to make full use of the flexibilities of EU law when designing and implementing social and employment measures in response to the pandemic. Third, and relatedly, the EU relaxed the ordinary rules of trade and other obligations of EU membership, such as public procurement, competition, and state aid law, to make it easier for its Member States to adopt social and employment protection measures in response to the pandemic. The extent to which these approaches were sufficient is a matter of disagreement.350

125.  The flexibilities inherent in these responses are essential in the context of the EU, within which there is a fairly wide range of stages of economic development and very different patterns of employment. EU Member States were affected differently by the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and of course there were also important differences within Member States.351 Those who were able to work from home, and those employed in essential roles, continued their employment irrespective of public health measures introduced to impede the spread of Covid-19. Around 35% of jobs in the EU can be done from home. These include jobs in information technology, civil service, financial services, and education. Northern Member States such as Denmark, the Netherlands, and Sweden have a higher proportion of such jobs.

126.  By contrast, those who have ‘non-essential’ jobs which cannot be carried out from home are the most vulnerable to unemployment and loss of income. Such jobs include hospitality, manufacturing, and agriculture. Some of these, however, involve little face-to-face interaction, so were associated with less Covid-19 risk. Central EU Member States such as Czechia, Hungary, and Slovakia have a higher prevalence of such jobs compared to other EU Member States. The less wealthy Southern Member States and the new Eastern Member States typically have relatively fewer jobs that can be done from home.

127.  In general, across all EU Member States, the economic ill-effects of Covid-19 were suffered mostly by three overlapping groups. These are (1) young, poorly educated workers (this is in contrast to the health risks from Covid-19 which are greater for older people); (2) those employed in the lowest-paid roles; and (3) those with insecure contract terms, often migrants from ‘third (non-EU) countries’. Worse economic effects have been felt in regions which lag behind the general levels of development in the EU, for example through lack of infrastructure such as reliable high-speed internet connectivity. Covid-19 exacerbated existing labour and social inequalities. Social and employment protection measures need to be able to be sufficiently targeted to reflect this fact.

A.  Social protection measures

128.  In principle, the EU is not competent in the field of social protection. There is no European Union social welfare system. Social protection is a national competence and so is covered in the country reports of the Member States. The EU coordinates social insurance for migrants within the EU,352 but these provisions were not changed because of the pandemic.353

129.  The EU’s competence in social protection is complex, shared with its Member States, and almost impossible to separate from its broader employment protection competences, which are indirect, and connected to the EU’s economic governance powers and processes.

1.  Social assistance

130.  The European Union is not competent to adopt measures relating to cash-based social assistance (such as cash transfers, non-contributory social pensions, child-care support, or cash-for-work schemes) nor in-kind assistance (such as school meals, food vouchers, utility waivers, rental payment deferrals, or suspension of evictions). The EU therefore provided no direct support but rather chose to exercise its competence to offer indirect support in the forms detailed in Parts V.A.3, V.A.4, and V.A.5 below.

2.  Social insurance

131.  The EU is not competent to adopt measures relating to contribution-linked benefits such as employment benefits, paid sick leave, pensions, or waivers of social security contributions. The EU therefore provided no direct support but rather chose to exercise its competence to offer indirect support in the forms detailed in Parts V.A.3, V.A.4, and V.A.5 below.

3.  Tax relief and other social measures

132.  The EU has no competence over income or wealth-related taxation. These are matters for Member States and are discussed in the relevant country reports.

133.  Ordinarily, governmental investment in national industries in EU Member States is subject to a strict regime of rules and procedures on state aid, based on Articles 107–109 TFEU, to ensure that such investments are consistent with the EU’s internal market, an area of fair competition within which products, services, capital, and labour circulate. This system of state aid law is overseen by the European Commission, which is empowered to enforce obligations on Member States.354 Article 107(3)(b) TFEU, however, provides that ‘aid to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a Member State’ is compatible with internal market obligations.

134.  On 19 March 2020, the European Commission formally communicated its view that state aid to industries adopted in view of disruptions caused by Covid-19 was compatible with the internal market, and thus lawful. 355 The Commission pointed out that the public health containment measures adopted by Member States (such as social distancing, travel restrictions, and quarantines) had an immediate economic impact, on both demand and supply, with negative repercussions for firms and employees, especially in the health, tourism, culture, retail, and transport sectors. The Commission therefore established a Temporary State Aids Framework.

135.  Subject to certain compatibility conditions set out in the Commission’s Communication, the European Commission took the view that state aid in five categories would be permitted as a response to the pandemic. First, Member States could make direct grants, grant selective tax advantages, and provide advance payments to remedy liquidity shortage faced by companies (especially small and medium sized enterprises) and to secure their ongoing viability. Second, Member States could provide State guarantees for bank loans, so that companies could continue to access loan financing from the banking sector. In addition, third, Member States themselves could provide subsidised public loan financing to the private sector. Fourth, where Member States used banks to channel loan funding to companies, under the Temporary State Aids Framework, that aid was treated as aid to the companies, not to the banks. Fifth, the Framework allowed for short-term export credit insurance to be given to certain companies. The Temporary State Aids Framework was amended in April 2020 to enable aid for research, testing, and production of products relevant to Covid-19, as well as to protect jobs and support the economy.356 A second amendment in May 2020 sought to further ease access to capital and liquidity for affected firms.357 In June 2020, a third amendment focused on micro, small, and start-up companies.358 By June 2022, the Temporary Framework had been extended three further times: to June 2021,359 to 31 December 2021,360 and to 30 June 2022.361 The Temporary Framework as a whole was not extended further, but some measures will continue under the existing provisions until June 2023,362 and some until December 2023.363

4.  Direct and indirect grants and subsidies

136.  The European Union lacks competence to take direct redistributive action. However, the European Union adopted a regulation (a ‘hard’ measure of EU law that binds all the Member States) establishing a ‘European Recovery Instrument’, offering finance to Member States to ‘tackle the adverse economic consequences of the Covid-19 crisis or the immediate funding needs to avoid a re-emergence of that crisis’.364 This instrument is the centrepiece of what is known as ‘NextGenerationEU’: the EU’s funding plan in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and development funding until 2027.365 The other strands of the EU’s funding for the Covid-19 recovery are more related to employment protection and labour market activation, so are discussed in Part V.B below, along with the detail of the implementation of the European Recovery Instrument. Necessarily modest in comparison with the recovery provisions offered by developed nation states, but offering far greater EU redistributive support than hitherto, the Regulation was stated to be ‘an exceptional response to temporary but extreme circumstances’ and limited only to ‘the purpose of addressing the adverse economic consequences of the Covid-19 crisis or the immediate funding needs to avoid a re-emergence of the Covid-19 crisis’.366 Notwithstanding, some commentators have suggested that the new approach could herald a normalisation of greater EU powers in economic governance.367 There is disagreement about whether this is a normal, and acceptable, creative interpretation of the EU’s ‘constitutional’ provisions within the bounds of what the legal texts permit, or an unlawful constitutional change without Treaty amendment.368 Our view, in brief, is that the temporary and exceptional nature of the relevant legal instruments puts NextGenerationEU into the former category.

137.  The measures to be adopted under the Regulation on the European Recovery Instrument are to restore employment and job creation; to prompt economic growth and increased economic resilience; support for companies, including direct financial investment, in particular in small and medium-sized enterprises; support for research and innovation in response to Covid-19; support to increase EU crisis preparedness, such as essential supplies stockpiling, infrastructure development for rapid crisis responses, etc; and support for the ‘green economy’, and support for agriculture and development of rural areas. The measures therefore cut across the categories discussed in this compendium, which distinguishes between ‘social protection’ and ‘employment protection’. The European Recovery Instrument operates, as is the case for other, similar EU redistributive activities, for instance through the EU’s regional or social development funding through specific programmes. The relevant programmes are established by provisions of EU legislation, which set the terms of reference and rules of operation for each programme. The lion’s share of the funding (up to EUR 312,500 million of non-repayable funding and EUR 360,000 of loan funding in 2018 prices) is for ‘a programme financing recovery and economic and social resilience via support to reforms and investments’.369 This will be administered through a ‘Recovery and Resistance Facility’,370 discussed further in Part V.B.7 below.

138.  In total, the European Recovery Instrument has been allocated a maximum of EUR 750,000 million (in 2018 prices) out of the larger-than-ever EUR 1.8 trillion overall multiannual budget. The EU’s competence to allocate funding is based on a formal legal act, known as the Own Resources Decision.371 This Decision is taken, after lengthy negotiations, for each EU multi-annual budgetary settlement, to empower the EU to disburse its resources. Most of the EU’s ‘own resources’ come from each Member State’s contribution, calculated by reference to its gross national income. The EU also receives a proportion of the value added tax (VAT) collected by each Member State of customs duties on products imported into the EU, and a national contribution based on non-recycled plastic packaging waste. Eventually adopted in December 2020, as part of the EU’s regular cycle of multi-annual budget setting, this Decision included a special provision on Covid-19 recovery, empowering the European Commission to borrow funds on capital markets on behalf of the European Union.372 This power is controversial. It is based on a very general legal basis in Article 311 TFEU, which provides that ‘the Union shall provide itself with the means necessary to attain its objectives and carry through its policies’.373

139.  The German Act Ratifying the EU Own Resources Decision (Eigenmittelbeschluss-Ratifizierungsgesetz) was challenged before the German Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht), on the grounds that it breaches democratic self-determination principles in the German Basic Law,374 because it has the effect of potentially removing the cap on Germany’s liability for EU debt under the European Stability Mechanism. An attempt to impose a preliminary injunction on the December 2020 Decision failed in April 2021.375 The full hearing is pending (as of November 2022).376 As required by Article 311 TFEU, the Own Resources Decision will not enter into force until all Member States have completed the procedures for its adoption.377 However, EU budgetary rules allow for the continuation of the previous budget until each new one is agreed—this aspect of EU funding is separate and does not hold back the rest of the EU’s budgetary processes.378

140.  In the meantime, less controversially, the European Commission proposed,379 and the Council and Parliament adopted,380 formal amendments to allow the European Union’s existing ‘cohesion funds’ to be deployed to combat the economic, social, and public health effects of Covid-19. These formal amendments began in March 2020. ‘Cohesion funds’ (the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the Cohesion Fund, and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund) are designed to assist the less developed EU Member States and seek to reduce economic disparities within the EU. The EU’s cohesion funds operate on the basis of partnership funding, provided by each Member State on the basis of its development priorities and organised into programmes. Organisations (public bodies, small businesses, universities, NGOs, voluntary organisations) apply for funding for projects within the programmes.

141.  The rationale behind these formal amendments was to ensure that Member States, which had necessarily made sudden, unplanned, investments in their healthcare systems and other sectors of their economies in response to the pandemic, creating or aggravating serious liquidity shortages, could nonetheless continue to access cohesion funding and invest in the programmes thus supported. For example, the European Regional Development Fund rules were adjusted to support the financing of working capital in small and medium-sized enterprises, on a temporary basis. The scope of the investment priority in research and technological innovation was expanded to include pandemic responses. The European Maritime and Fisheries Fund was adjusted to allow support for mutual funds and stock insurance to safeguard income of those in the fishing industry.

142.  Furthermore, procedural changes were introduced to give Member States more flexibility in their local implementation of cohesion programmes, and a simplified procedure for operational changes was adopted. The Commission was empowered not to issue recovery orders for amounts recoverable from Member States for the 2020 annual accounts, and Member States were requested to use funding not recovered to respond to Covid-19.

143.  By November 2020, the European Parliament and European Council—the latter consisting of the governments of Member States—had reached an agreement on a new cohesion package specifically to respond to Covid-19. The formal Regulation bringing this into effect was adopted in December 2020.381 Entitled ‘REACT-EU’ (Recovery Assistance for Cohesion and the Territories of Europe), the package involved an additional allocation to the Structural Funds of up to EUR 47.5 billion (in 2018 prices) for 2021 and 2022. The idea was that this funding be deployed through existing operational programmes in those Member States and regions whose economies are most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. The first allocations from this new funding were made to the Netherlands and Austria in April 2021,382 suggesting that it was not being channelled (at least in the first instance) to those Member States which needed it most. However, by August 2021, under-developed regions in Spain, Italy, and Cyprus were recipients.383 Information on subsequent allocations is available from the European Commission’s REACT-EU website.384 Around EUR 11 billion of REACT-EU cohesion funding was allocated for 2022.385

144.  In March 2021, the European Commission also proposed that further funding be made available to the European Solidarity Fund—which was set up in 2002 to respond to serious flooding across many EU countries—for relief and assistance following natural disasters. 386 In April 2020, the scope of the Fund was formally extended to cover ‘major public health emergencies’,387 defined as any life-threatening or otherwise serious hazard to health of biological origin in an eligible State that results in a public financial burden inflicted on the eligible State for emergency response measures estimated at over EUR 1.5 billion in 2011 prices, or more than 0.3 % of its GNI (gross national income).388 Seventeen Member States (Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czechia, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Portugal, Romania, Spain) and three accession countries (Albania, Montenegro, and Serbia) are eligible for funding under the arrangements.389 The Commission disbursed almost EUR 385.5 million to those states in January 2022,390 and further funding thereafter, to a total of EUR 529.3 million.391

145.  The EU has also adjusted the rules for its Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived,392 a peripheral EU policy instrument,393 which replaced the European Union’s food aid programme which has been running since the 1980s. The Fund works with partner organisations in the Member States to provide food and other basic necessities to help people take steps out of poverty.

5.  Encouraging use of flexibilities and relaxation of EU rules

146.  Alongside this approach of indirect financial support to people and companies in its Member States, where appropriate to respond to the pandemic, the European Union also encouraged Member States to use flexibilities in its rules and temporarily relaxed the application of some of its rules. The state aids regime, discussed in Part V.A.3 above, is one example. Another example of such relaxation is the EU procurement rules, discussed in Part IV.A.6 above.394

B.  Employment protection measures

147.  The EU’s competence in employment protection is complex, shared with its Member States, and almost impossible to separate from its broader social protection competences, which, as explained above, are indirect, and connected to the EU’s economic governance powers and processes.

148.  The EU’s involvement in employment protection and labour market activation takes two principal legal forms. The distinction flows from the EU’s competences in the field. One legal form is that the EU is competent to adopt binding harmonised laws, which apply to all workers (employers and employees, self-employed persons, ‘workers’, and so on, depending on the specific scope of each relevant piece of EU legislation) across the Member States. These prohibit nationality discrimination, within the scope of EU law;395 secure free movement of workers, freedom of establishment, and freedom to provide services;396 and set minimum requirements on labour law matters such as health and safety at work,397 worker protection on termination of employment, and equal treatment of men and women at work.398 The EU exercises this power through the ordinary legislative procedure, or through a procedure by which the social partners reach agreement, which is then formally adopted by a Council decision.399 Only a few pieces of EU harmonised employment legislation cover employment protection (specifically on insolvency of enterprises400 and transfer of undertakings) 401 and no EU legislation of this nature covers labour market activation.

149.  The other legal form of EU employment protection policy is that the EU is competent to coordinate (but not harmonise) Member State employment policy to promote employment,402 consistent with the economic policies adopted by the Member States, adopted in accordance with the EU’s economic policy.403 The EU exercises this power through what is known as the ‘semester system’, which works on a six-month cycle, hence the name ‘semester’. The semester system is a persuasive governance structure inspired by the work of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, rather than being mandatory EU law. Originally, the EU had separate policy coordination systems for economic policy and employment policy, and, to a smaller extent, social policy, but these have now been brought together into a single system. Since 2019, the EU has also brought the United Nations sustainable development goals within the system. The cycle begins with the EU Council, on the basis of analysis conducted by the European Commission, setting annual policy guidance and recommendations. Member States respond by communicating their own country-specific objectives, policies and plans, which—after input from the European Commission—are adopted by a formal Council Decision as country-specific recommendations. In the implementation phase, Member States take these recommendations into account, and are obliged to report progress back to the Commission, which uses this data to begin the cycle again the following year. Although the national and EU social partners (employers’ and trade union organisations) have been involved in the European semester process since 2014, it is unclear the extent to which their involvement leads to effective policy change.404

150.  The EU’s semester system was adjusted in April 2020, to take account of the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the capacities of the Member States to undertake the usual reporting requirements. The Council of Economic and Finance Ministers agreed a simplified reporting system.405

151.  The EU’s semester system has been significantly criticised for its indirect effects on healthcare systems. In the aftermath of the Eurozone and global financial crises, the semester system was used to ‘steer’ Member States towards economic policies of fiscal prudence and austerity, with consequent repercussions for the resourcing of national health systems. The Covid-19 pandemic appears to have fundamentally changed policy discourses in this regard (see also Part V.A above). Rather than an austerity-based approach, EU institutions have adopted a position that sees economic recovery as dependent on the ability to increase public spending, especially on certain sectors, including healthcare.

1.  Economic support for employers

152.  The EU did not introduce measures which provided economic support directly to employers to avoid job losses during the pandemic, either in the form of payments directly to workers, or payments mediated through employers. This is an area of national competence. What the EU did do flows from the powers that it shares with its Member States in economic/employment/social governance.

2.  Worker protection from dismissal and other contractual protections

153.  The EU has limited competence in legislating to protect workers from dismissal. As noted above, it adopted legislation only on insolvency of enterprises406 and transfer of undertakings,407 as well as on non-discrimination.408 None of these directives were amended to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic.

3.  Other worker protections

154.  The EU’s indirect and persuasive governance/‘steering’ labour market interventions do not in themselves distinguish between ‘employees’, other worker categories, and the self-employed. The EU does target some of its governance activities in this area towards vulnerable groups: for instance, it has long-standing programmes of labour market activation aimed at women. These governance activities are discussed in Part V.A.4 above and in Part V.B.7 below. For example, the EU used its SURE (Support to Mitigate Unemployment Risks in an Emergency) funding instruments (discussed in Part V.B.7 below) to encourage Member States to deploy ‘short-time’ working arrangements. Further information on all these matters can be found in the country reports.

4.  Health and safety

155.  As noted above, EU legislation sets minimum requirements on health and safety at work. Member States are obliged to meet these minimum standards in their employment laws. Based the powers conferred on the EU in Article 153 TFEU, the relevant legislation consists of a Framework Directive409 and several sectoral instruments.410 The legislation is supported by a raft of EU Guidelines and European Standards, adopted by one of the European Standardisation Bodies. Most products sold on the EU market—including products associated with health and safety at work—must show conformity with such standards. EU internal market law thus intersects with its law on health and safety at work.

156.  Regulation 2016/425 on personal protective equipment (PPE) is an important piece of EU health and safety legislation in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.411 The Regulation requires that all PPE placed on the EU market must meet European design and manufacturing standards. Compliance is assessed by manufacturers, or in instances where so mandated by EU law, by ‘notified bodies’, and is evidenced by a ‘CE mark’ being affixed to the product.

157.  Regulation 2016/425 organises PPE into three categories. Category III includes products, such as facemasks, coveralls, gloves, and eyewear protection, designed to protect the wearer against harmful biological agents, including viruses. These products must be assessed by a notified body, according to a specific conformity assessment procedure, as outlined in the Regulation.412 In addition, some types of PPE, such as surgical masks, examination gloves, and some types of gowns, must also comply with the EU’s legislation on medical devices.413 This legislation is not EU health and safety law—in terms of its legal basis,414 which is the provision of the TFEU that formally grants the EU competence to legislate—but rather EU internal market law.

158.  No formal legal adjustments were made to this legislation, but the European Commission issued a Recommendation on 13 March 2020 seeking to ensure increased supply of PPE to the EU market (and to its workers), responding to the pandemic.415 The Recommendation reminded Member States and economic actors of flexibilities within EU legislation—which is ‘technologically neutral’ in that it requires that a minimum standard of health and safety is shown, rather than imposing a single method for demonstrating compliance—and urged notified bodies to prioritise assessment of anti-Covid-19 PPE equipment, especially requests from new economic operators on the EU market.

5.  Activation

159.  The EU’s economic/employment/social policy processes aim to support labour market activation in the Member States. Consistent with its constrained competences in this area, the EU did not itself provide targeted support to unemployed workers (for example through retraining or education) but it did work in partnership with its Member States where they wished to do so. Further details are discussed in Part V.B.7 below.

6.  Social partners

160.  The European social partners (the European Trades Union Congress (ETUC); BUSINESSEUROPE (private companies); Union Européenne de l'Artisanat et des Petites et Moyennes Enterprises (European Union of Crafts and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises); and the European Centre of Employers and Enterprises providing public services (public sector employers)) are involved in EU employment law making as described in the introduction to Part V.B above. None of the measures of EU harmonising employment legislation were amended in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

161.  The involvement of European and national social partners in the European semester process (economic/employment/social policy governance) began in 2014. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, it was not clear how effective or otherwise the social partners could be in terms of influencing the outcomes of the semester process.416

162.  The European social partners endorsed 43 joint statements concerning the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 alone.417 These included hortative statements encouraging full use of flexibilities written into various aspects of EU law (see discussion in Part V.A.5 above) and use of European Union funding to support struggling enterprises (see discussion in Part V.A.4 above and in Part V.B.7 below).418

7.  Other legal measures

163.  At the time of writing, we are not aware of any new EU legal measures concerning, for instance, rights associated with homeworking, privacy rights, or new forms of surveillance for remote work. The European Commission’s proposed Regulation on Artificial Intelligence (AI),419 part of its AI ‘package’, classifies AI that assists with recruitment, selection, promotion, and termination of workers as ‘high risk’.420 It may result in the development of technical rules to protect workers rights in the context of AI.

164.  The other important legal measures to understand when considering the EU’s law on Covid-19 responses are those associated with the EU’s redistributive powers.

165.  Alongside the European Recovery Instrument (discussed in Part V.A.5 above), the EU refocused its existing instruments that could be used to provide (modest) redistribution of resources within the EU. Key examples are the SURE scheme and the Recovery and Resistance Facility, which flows from the European Recovery Instrument. We discuss each in turn in the paragraphs that follow.

166.  In May 2020, the EU adopted the SURE scheme, an instrument of EU loan funding to Member States to mitigate temporary employment risks arising because of the Covid-19 pandemic by supporting the costs associated with short-time work schemes.421 The European Commission defined short-time work schemes, in its proposal for the relevant Regulation,422 as ‘public programmes that allow firms experiencing economic difficulties to temporarily reduce the hours worked while providing their employees with income support from the State for the hours not worked’. Similar schemes were also available to replace the income of self-employed people in emergency situations.

167.  By September 2020, EUR 87.4 billion of SURE loan funding had been approved for 16 Member States.423 In October 2020, the European Commission adopted a Framework for Social Bonds for the SURE scheme,424 at least in theory to reassure lenders that the funding mobilised through the bonds would actually serve the objectives of alleviating the social and employment effects of the pandemic, and keeping people in employment. The Commission reported a strong interest in the two initially issued bonds,425 repayable in 2030 and 2040 respectively, and listed on the Luxembourg Stock Exchange.426 EUR 17 billion was disbursed to Italy, Spain, and Poland.427 By mid-November 2020, another EUR 14 billion had been disbursed to nine EU Member States,428 and in early December 2020 another EUR 8.5 billion was given to a further five EU Member States.429 Further disbursements took place in February 2021,430 March 2021,431 December 2021,432 March 2022,433 and October 2022.

168.  The EU Regulation establishing the Recovery and Resistance Facility was adopted in February 2021 (for further details on its legislative basis, see Part V.A.4 above).434 Its Preamble explicitly notes that ‘[r]eductions in spending on sectors, such as the education sector, cultural sector and creative sector, and on healthcare can prove counterproductive to achieving a swift recovery’,435 and that ‘[p]ast experiences have shown that investment is often drastically cut during crises. However, it is essential to support investment in this particular situation to speed up the recovery and strengthen long-term growth potential’.436 The Regulation provides that the EU will, in effect, temporarily cease its ‘normal’ economic governance practices,437 such as its excessive deficit procedure, which seeks to prevent Member States from exceeding a budgetary deficit ceiling set by the EU’s Stability and Growth Pact legislation. The European Commission had already put on hold its excessive deficit procedure in autumn 2020.438

169.  The Recovery and Resistance Facility is intended to be a comprehensive tool providing direct financial support to the Member States. The amount of support available for each Member State is calculated on the basis of an algorithm involving population size, inverse of GDP (gross domestic product) per capita, change in real GDP between 2020 and 2021, and relative unemployment rates.439 Allocations of available funding are made in response to requests from Member States, based on the European Commission’s assessment of each Member State’s Covid-19 recovery and resistance plan.440 Both the national plans and the Commission’s assessment must be published.441 Each allocation must be approved by a formal Council Implementing Decision.442 Member States are obliged to report progress against their plans twice a year, in the context of the European semester.443

170.  The scheme entered into force in February 2021.444 By April 2021, Germany and Greece had submitted their plans under the scheme,445 and other Member States followed. ‘Pre-financing’ of 13% of the allocated amounts under the scheme was rolled out from July 2021, and by January 2022, some 21 Member States had received such ‘pre-financing’ allocations. The first preliminary assessment decisions by the Commission in response to national requests for funding began to be made in January 2022.446 By mid-November 2022, the European Commission had made 12 such positive decisions.447 Progress of the Recovery and Resistance Facility scheme as a whole may be tracked on a dedicated European Commission ‘scoreboard’.448 The Facility is structured in six ‘pillars’,449 which reflect the EU’s existing economic, employment, social, and sustainability policies and approaches: (i) ‘green transition’, (investment in environmentally friendly technologies); (ii) ‘digital transformation’ (investment in digitisation and data infrastructure); (iii) ‘smart sustainable and inclusive growth’ (job creation, increased productivity, research and development, and an EU-wide market with strong small and medium sized enterprises); (iv) ‘social and territorial cohesion’ (related to the EU’s cohesion policies); (v) ‘health, economic, social, and institutional resilience’ (including increasing crisis preparedness); and (vi) ‘policies for the next generation’ (including education and skills development).

171.  The Recovery and Resistance Facility is a classic instrument of governance ‘steering’. It offers funding for Covid-19 recovery, including employment protection measures, but on a conditional basis. The resources come from the European Union Recovery Instrument (see Part V.A.4 above).450 Non-repayable financial support is given by the EU to each Member State, on the basis of the costs of that Member State’s ‘recovery and resilience plan’, paid over on the basis of measurable results achieved. Member States may not substitute EU funding for ordinary recurrent national expenditure. The aim was that the financial support would be made available as soon as feasible and ‘frontloaded’ in 2022 (70%) with the remaining 30% paid in 2023. The European Union is not quite on track with this ambitious timetable. In addition, loan funding is also available. Whether the Recovery and Resistance Facility parameters and procedures are adequate to tackle fundamental inequalities both in health and social protection, and in employment, is a matter of some doubt.451

VI.  Human Rights and Vulnerable Groups

172.  The European Union is not, per se, a human rights organisation. However, its Charter of Fundamental Rights binds its institutions and Member States when implementing EU law.452 Rights in the European Convention on Human Rights, to which all EU Member States are parties, have the status of general principles in EU law.453

173.  The European Commission’s 2020 Rule of Law Report noted that:

The particular circumstances of 2020 have brought additional challenges to citizens’ rights, and some restrictions on our freedoms, such as freedom of movement, freedom of assembly or freedom to conduct a business, had to be applied to address the [Covid-19] pandemic.454

The European Commission viewed the Covid-19 pandemic as a ‘stress-test’ for public administration and constitutional systems. Member States took exceptional measures to protect public health, many declaring a formal national emergency. The Commission scrutinised these national actions, by reference to the EU’s ‘fundamental values and principles’, which include respect for human rights, proportionality, transparency, and scrutiny (by courts, parliaments, the media, and civil society) in 27 country reports on the rule of law. The Commission’s overall assessment was that Member States’ responses were appropriate, showing ‘strong resilience of national systems’.455 By 2021, the European Commission’s overall message in its Rule of Law Report remained the same,456 but some concerns were raised about overall pandemic responses. In particular, the Commission was critical of those Member States where the legal regime under which human rights were restricted because of the pandemic was not clearly established in advance. The Commission called on all Member States to enshrine in their constitutions, or other legal spaces (such as public health law), the legal structures to support a crisis situation that endures for a considerable period of time.

174.  At the same time, the European Commission has paid attention to the needs of vulnerable groups. Its July 2020 Communication on Preparedness identified three categories of people whose needs should prompt special attention: medically vulnerable people such as the elderly; socially marginalised people, such as people in crowded accommodation situations; and members of professions which entail being within close proximity to Covid-19 sufferers.457

175.  Much of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) Guidance (see Part IV.A above) also refers to vulnerable groups. For example, the Guidance on Social Distancing Measures,458 originally from March 2020, explicitly mentioned the need to offer extra support to vulnerable people such as the elderly, disabled people, homeless people, undocumented migrants and prisoners, and cautioned against the effects of stigmatisation of those who are required to quarantine (see Part IV.A.5 above). Another example is the ECDC’s Guidance on Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions,459 which included explicit sections on prisons and detention centres for refugees (see Part IV.A.1 above).

176.  The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights issued seven ‘Bulletins’ between April 2020 and June 2021, covering various fundamental rights implications of the Covid-19 pandemic. These ranged from specifically focussing on a particular group (Roma and Travellers) and how their human rights had been affected,460 to more general discussions of the justifications for restrictions on freedoms such as free movement and assembly, in light of the need to save human lives.461 These Bulletins had no formal legal status, but indicate how the Agency may interpret fundamental rights protection obligations as they apply to the EU and to the Member States when implementing EU law. The Bulletins seem to have ceased in June 2021. The Agency’s 2022 Report focused on social rights as key to pandemic recovery.462

A.  Civil liberties

177.  Many legal and policy responses to Covid-19 that potentially breached civil liberties were matters of national, rather than European Union, competence. As discussed in detail in Parts III.E, IV.A.1, IV.A.2.1, and IV.A.2.2 above, restrictions on freedom of movement were one area of the Covid-19 pandemic response in which the EU had clear competence to engage, given the centrality of free movement, including of people, to the creation and sustaining of the EU’s internal market. The EU’s overall approach was to balance the need to protect human health and national security against restrictions on civil liberties, taking the view that only proportionate and necessary restrictions are permissible in EU law. The more widely-cited literature on this matter focuses more on the question of whether public health and/or national security grounds a proportionate response by the EU Member States to the mandate of free movement driven by EU internal market law, rather than the question of whether civil liberties had been breached (on proportionality of travel restrictions, see further Part IV.A.2 above).463

178.  A different question is the extent to which the EU was legally or morally obliged to interfere when Member States responded to the Covid-19 pandemic by restricting civil liberties (for information and analysis as to the extent to which EU Member States did so, please see the individual country reports). A 2020 report by the Civil Liberties Union for Europe and Greenpeace called on the Council, European Parliament, and European Commission to take action, but was light on specifics as to the particular breaches of EU law that would found such action, or the precise competence of the EU institutions to act.464 It is not clear that the European Union institutions have any legal obligation to act, unless the Member States are implementing EU law when they take action which breaches civil liberties that are protected by the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights (unlikely because of the allocation of competences).465 The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights protects a wide range of civil liberties including the freedom of movement and residence (Article 45); freedom of assembly and of association (Article 12); the right to liberty and security of the person (Article 6); and freedom of expression and information (Article 11). Whether there is a moral obligation is outside the scope of this report.

B.  Privacy

179.  In the technological responses to Covid-19, such as contact tracing and warning apps as well as with the EU’s Digital Certificate (both discussed in Part IV.A.2 above) questions of privacy and data protection arise.

180.  Generally speaking, the fundamental rights to privacy and data protection are extensively protected in the EU, but by quite a complex and overlapping set of rules. In addition to any national constitutional protections for privacy and data protection, which obviously differ between Member States, Article 7 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union grants the right to respect for private and family life, while Article 8(1) of the Charter and Article 16(1) TFEU provide the right to the protection of personal data. A detailed legal framework has been developed for data protection in the EU with the adoption of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).466 Data protection is also covered by many specific provisions of EU law which may have relevance for the Covid-19 pandemic, for instance, the Clinical Trials Regulation,467 compliance with which is essential for securing an EU marketing authorisation for medicines for treating Covid-19 and for vaccines (discussed in Parts IV.A.8.2 and IV.A.8.3 above); the ePrivacy Directive, relevant for contact tracing;468 and the Directive on Data Protection in Criminal Law Enforcement,469 relevant for Covid-19 prosecutions in the Member States. The European Commission has also proposed a general EU law on artificial intelligence (mentioned in Part V.B.7 above),470 which would have implications for privacy and data protection rights in EU law. Although the GDPR is nominally a ‘regulation’, in fact it leaves significant leeway to the EU Member States as to the details of its implementation. Also, the European Convention on Human Rights, to which all EU Member States are parties and the rights of which have the status of general principles in EU law,471 protects privacy under its Article 8.

181.  With regards to data protection, the processing of personal data472 and, of particular relevance here, health data473 is subject to stricter rules of protection in EU law than for other types of data.474 The presumption is that personal data concerning health may not be processed, but there are conditions under which it may be, which are listed in the GDPR,475 and in other relevant provisions of EU law. The most important of these in the context of the pandemic were explicit consent476 and the processing of health data when ‘necessary for reasons of public interest in the area of public health, such as protecting against serious cross-border threats to health …, on the basis of Union or Member State law which provides for suitable and specific measures to safeguard the rights and freedoms of the data subject, in particular professional secrecy’.477 There is also a general exclusion in the GDPR for criminal justice processes where there is a ‘threat to public security’, which may be applicable in the context of a pandemic.478 In general, EU law permits only necessary and proportionate restrictions on privacy and data protection. Guidance as to what constitutes a necessary and proportionate limitation of fundamental human rights in EU law in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic was limited and it has been argued that this lack of guidance limited the EU’s protection of the right to privacy during the pandemic. 479

182.  The EU’s European Data Protection Supervisor was responsible for overseeing compliance by the EU’s institutions, agencies, and bodies with data protection rights during the Covid-19 pandemic,480 which it did by providing impact assessments, training, and guidance.481

183.  As discussed in Part IV.A.9 above, several EU and other European-level institutions issued soft law documents considering the rollout of contact tracing technologies within Europe, including recommendations about their consistency with privacy rights. These soft law measures included a European Commission Recommendation;482 a ‘Toolbox;483 interoperability Guidelines;484 and further technical details,485 adopted by the Member States acting through the e-Health network,486 with European Commission support. The relevant soft law also included the European Data Protection Supervisor’s April 2020 Guidelines on the use of location data and contact tracing tools.487 Separate from the EU, but in Europe, the Council of Europe adopted a Joint Statement on Digital Contact Tracing,488 and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development published a ‘policy response’ on protecting privacy while tracking and tracing Covid-19 using apps and biometrics.489 Several NGOs also issued statements.490

184.  As the European Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) has pointed out,491 these various soft law instruments led to a kind of ‘European consensus’ on privacy-compliant contact tracing technologies.492 Such technologies should comply with key principles of voluntary use (consent), purpose limitation (data only to be used to combat the pandemic, not for other purposes), data minimisation (only essential data to be gathered), anonymisation or pseudonymisation, transparency (where the source code is made public), and the benefits of decentralisation (where personal data is held only locally on a user’s device) over centralised data collection (where data is stored and processed on a central server). Not every Member State shared this interpretation of privacy rights in EU law; notably France’s contact tracing app adopted a centralised data protection approach.

185.  The FRA echoed these recommendations in its second Covid-19 Bulletin.493 As well as interferences with the right to private life and protection of personal data, the FRA pointed out that contact tracing apps may affect other human rights such as the rights to freedom of movement, freedom of association, and freedom of religion where inferences might be drawn from a person’s location or proximity to other people. The FRA further highlighted that inaccurate data or biases could exacerbate discrimination on forbidden grounds, such as race. Furthermore, the exclusion of those who were not ‘digitally savvy’ had the potential to worsen as a consequence of the rollout of contact tracing apps.

186.  At EU level, by July 2020, a Commission Implementing Decision (‘hard law’) on cross-border exchange of data between national Covid-19 apps had been adopted,494 along with technical specifications.495 The EU interoperability gateway went live in October 2020. The gateway connects the national apps and allows tracing and warning if the user is travelling within the EU.496 Participation in the gateway is voluntary, and in practice only open to Member States where the national contact tracing app is based on a decentralised system. Some 19 Member States joined the network, although by June 2022, six of them had left, because their use of the apps had been discontinued.497

187.  The EU Digital Covid Certificate (discussed in Part IV.A.2.3 above) also engages privacy concerns. When assessing the European Union’s protection of the rights to privacy and data protection in this context, it is important to bear in mind the allocation of competences (see Part IV.A.2.3 in particular and Part I in general above). All aspects of the issuing of certificates rest with the Member States. GDPR compliance and privacy protection in that regard is covered in the relevant country reports. The EU is concerned only with mutual recognition and interoperability of the certificates, to facilitate free movement within and into the EU.498

188.  The initial legislative proposals for the EU Digital Covid Certificate were criticised,499 inter alia, for taking insufficient account of privacy and data protection rights.500 One interpretation is that the EU Digital Covid Certificate could never comply with the EU’s duties to protect such human rights, because the very foundation of the Certificate involves using health data (a highly sensitive category of personal data in EU law) collected for the purpose of health protection, for the different purpose of free movement/travel. However, the overall principles of voluntary use (consent), purpose limitation, and data minimisation have been protected in the Regulations as finally adopted.501 The Regulations claim ‘full compliance’ with the GDPR.502 The Certificate is not a ‘passport’, and is not required by law for free movement rights to be exercised,503 although of course in practice it is very difficult to cross an EU border without one. The Certificate may not be used for other purposes.504 The data fields are specified and limited to those necessary for the purpose.505 Personal data is not retained by national authorities any longer than necessary for the purpose.506 The Regulations include a ‘sunset clause’, which was originally 30 June 2022, but was extended to 30 June 2023.507

189.  The FRA also considered further data protection concerns arising from the pandemic.508 It pointed out variations in the ways in which national data protection authorities interpreted duties under the GDPR in the context of employers sharing employee data about Covid-19 infection or symptoms, contact with infected individuals, or travel to high-risk places with their employees. Such variation is a normal consequence of the significant implementation flexibilities given to Member States under the GDPR, as noted above. However, on this point, the FRA was careful not to express an opinion as to which national interpretations were adequately protective of the relevant human rights.

C.  Gender

190.  As the EU Fundamental Rights Agency has noted,509 women undertook a disproportionate responsibility for caring obligations during the pandemic, both paid within the health and social care workforce, and unpaid within the family. This burden threatens to undermine those steps towards gender equality in the workplace in the EU to which EU law and policy have contributed. The European Parliament,510 for instance, called for the targeted use of NextGenerationEU funding (discussed in Parts V.A.4 and V.B.7 above) to alleviate the disproportionate burdens faced by women during the pandemic; for the sharing of best practice through the ‘European semester’ (discussed in Part V.B above) and for adjustments to the EU’s so-called ‘work-life balance’ Directive, which sets minimum rules aimed at gender equality for working parents and carers, including a minimum of five carer leave days a year,511 and a raft of other EU legislation which concerns mental health in the digital world of work. Some commentators see the pandemic as an opportunity for the EU to build on these measures.512 However, no ‘hard’ or binding EU law has been adopted on the human rights of women in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

191.  The European Centre for Disease and Prevention Control noted the increased prevalence of domestic violence against women and children during the pandemic.513 However, its guidance did not include any specific suggested good practice in this context, this being a matter for national competence.

192.  Access to Covid-19 vaccines for pregnant and breastfeeding women was another dimension of equality on the basis of gender. The European Medicines Agency cooperated internationally to share clinical trial data in order to develop an approach balancing equality with safety and efficacy.514 Access to vaccines for pregnant women to date is a matter of national discretion in each Member State—some Member States added pregnant women as a priority group, others did not.515

D.  Ethnicity and race

193.  No ‘hard’ or binding EU law has been adopted on the human rights of members of ethnic or racial minority groups in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The European Commission, the ECDC, and the EU Fundamental Rights Agency noted the need to consider ethnicity and race dimensions of legal and policy responses to Covid-19. For example, the ECDC referred to evidence showing higher infection rates for some groups defined by race and/or ethnicity.516 Roma were particularly singled out as a group in need of protection, not only because their living conditions involved an increased risk of infection, but also because Roma were vulnerable to increased destitution when income from work as street vendors dried up because of Covid-19 restrictions; because in many EU countries Roma cannot access the national health system;517 and because of lower than average levels of health literacy among Roma communities.518 The ECDC suggested that Covid-19 information should be disseminated in plain language, and that minority language translations should be made available.519

194.  The EU Fundamental Rights Agency regularly noted the disproportionate impact of responses to the Covid-19 pandemic on equal treatment on the grounds of ethnicity and race.520 The Agency devoted a whole Covid-19 Bulletin to the position of the Roma.521 Along with the ECDC,522 the Agency also highlighted the stigmatisation of some ethnic groups (Chinese and other Asian minorities, members of Jewish communities) associated with the pandemic. The ECDC’s guidance suggested that ‘leaders and other influential people should speak out against stigmatisation and hate speech directed at specific populations in the context of the pandemic.’523 The European Commission went further, in a Communication of June 2020,524 pointing out that Covid-19 disinformation includes both conspiracy theories which may endanger human health, harm cohesion, or lead to public violence (such as anti-Semitic Covid-19 disinformation) and illegal hate speech (such as Covid-19 racist and xenophobic statements). The latter, the European Commission reminded the Member States, are the responsibility of national agencies charged with upholding criminal law.525

E.  Disability

195.  The European Parliament, European Commission, the ECDC, and the EU Fundamental Rights Agency noted the need to consider the needs of people with disabilities during the pandemic.526 No ‘hard’ or binding EU law was adopted on the human rights of people with disabilities in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

196.  For example, the European Parliament noted the effects of Covid-19 restrictions on people with mental ill-health and intellectual disabilities in a Resolution in July 2020,527 which called on the European Commission to mobilise structural funding to support people with disabilities, and on the Member States to provide psychological support and legal redress to secure their rights. The EU Structural Funding (see Part V.A.3 above) could be deployed to support people with disabilities, particular to access the workplace.528

197.  The ECDC’s Guidance noted that the move to online working could exclude some individuals with visual or auditory processing impairments and suggested that ‘efforts should be made to ensure that people remain connected with each other in order to maintain wellbeing and avoid adverse mental health impacts’.529 The European Ombudsman urged the European Commission to learn lessons from the move to online working of European Commission staff.530 Referring to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Ombudsman adopted an ‘indicative list’ of best practices for accommodating the needs of staff members with disabilities, both in the context of the pandemic and in future emergency situations. The list included: use of accessible formats for communications; dedicated support phone line and email account, and communities of support; use of modified health protection tools (eg transparent masks for sign language users); putting in place the same facilities and assistive technology that would be accessible at the office when people with disabilities are required to work remotely (eg adapted IT equipment such as microphones, software such as live captioning, suitable furniture, if necessary bringing equipment to the employee’s home); permitting working from a different country where needed; considering requests for special leave, or flexible/part time work arrangements, for employees who are carers for persons with disabilities; maintaining dialogue with employees with disabilities about their needs and increased manager awareness of ‘reasonable accommodations’ in an emergency situation.

F.  Elderly

198.  The European Commission, the ECDC, and the EU Fundamental Rights Agency noted the need to consider the effect of the pandemic on elderly people.531 For example, the FRA praised the vaccine rollout (a matter of national competence) across Member States, which prioritised older people. No ‘hard’ or binding EU law was adopted on the human rights of elderly people in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

G.  Children

199.  The European Commission, the ECDC, and the EU Fundamental Rights Agency have noted the need to consider the effects of the pandemic on children. No ‘hard’ or binding EU law has been adopted on the human rights of children in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The European Commission adopted a non-binding Communication in July 2020,532 on an EU strategy against child sexual abuse (both online and offline), which notes that the pandemic has exacerbated the problem of child sexual abuse, particularly for children who live with their abuser.533 The EU strategy forms the basis for a 2020–2025 EU ‘action plan’ on child sexual abuse,534 and a broader 2021–2024 EU strategy on the rights of the child.535

200.  The European Fundamental Rights Agency also considered specific matters concerning children arising from the pandemic, such as disruption to education.536 Pointing to several country reports on the negative effects on some children of school closures, the FRA highlighted the needs of vulnerable children, for example with special educational needs or because of their socio-economic background.

201.  Finally, in terms of the vaccine authorisation for children, the European Commission, based on the opinion of the European Medicines Agency, was responsible for authorising Covid-19 vaccinations for use in children. This happened at the end of May 2021 for the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine Comirnaty for 12–15 year olds.537 A judicial review of this Commission Decision, brought by parents arguing that the combination of the marketing authorisation which breached the precautionary principle and Italian law requiring proof of vaccination or negative Covid-19 test, or recovery from Covid-19, in order to access sporting or cultural activities, was rejected by the Court of First Instance on the grounds that the applicants did not have locus standi,538 as they were not ‘directly or individually concerned’.539 The European Medicines Agency modified its advice to the European Commission authorising the BioNTech/Pfizer Comirnaty vaccine for 5–11 year olds in November 2021.540 We believe that the Commission implementing Decision authorising the vaccine for children aged 5–11 was taken on 4 February 2022, but the document has not been published.541 In February 2022, the European Medicines Agency recommended that the Spikevax (Moderna) vaccine be authorised in the EU for children above six years of age;542 and in October 2022 that recommendation was extended to children above six months of age, also for the Comirnaty vaccine.543 Up-to-date information on Covid-19 vaccines authorised in the EU is available on a website maintained by the European Commission.544

H.  Prisoners

202.  The EU’s competence over rules related to prisons and imprisonment flows from the need for Member States to have mutual trust in each other’s penal processes and arrangements, so that criminal law cooperation, such as through the European Arrest Warrant545 and the Framework Decision on the Transfer of Prisoners,546 can take place. This is a highly disputed area of EU law.547 The European Union takes inspiration from the Council of Europe’s considerable work in this area.548 No ‘hard’ or binding EU law has been adopted on the human rights of prisoners in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, although in December 2021, the European Commission proposed a Directive on the digitalisation of judicial cooperation.549 This proposal mainly focused on the practicalities of digitalisation, but did refer (albeit briefly) to the need to ensure that systems which were put in place piecemeal and quickly by the Member States during the pandemic (see the Member State country reports) were compliant with human rights. The ECDC and the EU Fundamental Rights Agency considered specific matters concerning prisoners, and other persons deprived of their liberty, arising from the pandemic.550 These included the increased risk of infection due to the crowded conditions in prisons and detention centres. Because of this risk, the ECDC recommended that those held in prisons and detention centres should be prioritised for Covid-19 testing. The Fundamental Rights Agency noted that, despite the increased risk of infection, only a third of Member States included detainees in a vaccination priority group.551

I.  Non-citizens

203.  As discussed in Parts IV.A.2 and IV.A.2.2 above), the EU and Schengen-Associated Countries (Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Lichtenstein) were encouraged by the European Commission to ‘temporarily’ restrict non-essential travel into the EU+ area from mid-March 2020.552 The Communication stressed that EU+ countries were permitted to refuse entry to ‘non-resident third-country nationals’, ie non-citizens who do not have permanent residence within the EU+ (‘non-resident non-citizens’) where they presented Covid-19 symptoms, or had been particularly exposed to a risk of infection, as a proportionate response to a public health threat. This approach was endorsed by the Heads of State and Government on 17 March 2020, and all EU+ countries applied such travel restrictions.

204.  No ‘hard’ or binding EU law was adopted on the human rights of non-citizens in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The European Commission encouraged respect for human rights of non-resident non-citizens in the following ways. None imposed binding obligations on EU+ countries. Countries were encouraged to rely on flexibilities in existing legal provisions, and to respect human rights in the implementation of their policies.

205.  First, Member States were encouraged to extend short-stay visas, and waive administrative penalties, for those who were unable to return to their country of residence because of travel restrictions.553

206.  Second, the European Commission issued Guidance on asylum, return procedures, and resettlement.554 The aim of the Guidance was to ensure that access to asylum procedures, compliant with respect for human rights, and access to essential healthcare, including for Covid-19, continued as much as possible during the pandemic, while recognising that the pandemic places national systems under great strain. The approach was to provide practical tools and examples of good practice, in a non-binding form, for asylum (including arrangements for interviews, reception conditions, including conditions for detention, and procedures under the ‘Dublin Regulation’);555 resettlement; and return (taking into account restrictions on international travel, access to essential services such as housing and health care, and what constitutes proportionate and reasonable reasons for detention). According to the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, several Member States imposed temporary restrictions on processing of asylum applications, although these were eased by June 2020, through the use of electronic means of communication.556

207.  The ECDC also noted that there was ‘no evidence that quarantining whole camps effectively limits transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in reception and detention settings, or that it provides any additional protection to the general population other than that which could be achieved using conventional containment and protection measures’.557 To adopt such a quarantine measure would, consequently, have been a breach of human rights obligations.

208.  The EU Fundamental Rights Agency also considered other specific matters concerning non-citizens arising from the pandemic, such as access to online education for school children living in detention centres, or access to vaccines for people who do not have a social security number.558 The particular disadvantages faced by ‘irregular migrants’ were also addressed in ECDC guidance, suggesting that ‘good human rights practice’ involved access to financial aid for everyone in need, irrespective of formal legal status; proportionate quarantine measures, and avoiding deprioritising health services on a discriminatory basis.559

209.  The approach of the European Union to its external borders during the Covid-19 pandemic has been criticised.560 This type of critique built on long-standing narratives about ‘Fortress Europe’.561 Much of the EU’s identity is sustained and maintained on a basis which excludes non-citizens, especially those from the Global South, as ‘others’. When viewed from a human rights and equality perspective, EU law’s ‘othering’ of non-citizens is criticised as being repugnant and linked to a contemporary ‘dark side’ of the EU, linked to and building directly on the continent’s colonial and racist past.562

J.  Indigenous peoples

210.  There is no further relevant information to be reported, other than that already noted in Part VI.D above on language recommendations for communication of Covid-19 information by public authorities. The European Union does not have specific competences to protect the human rights of indigenous peoples within its borders.

Tamara Hervey, City, University of London

Sabrina Roettger-Wirtz, formerly University of Maastricht

Alexandra Fyfe, (Research Assistant) University of London


1  European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, ‘Timeline of ECDC's response to COVID-19’ (accessed 17 January 2022).

2  Our World in Data, ‘Coronavirus Pandemic (COVID-19) – the data’ (accessed 17 January 2022).

3  Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the European Council, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee, and the Committee of the Regions, ‘Drawing the early lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic’ (15 June 2021), 4.

4  TEU, arts 13–19; TFEU, arts 223–309.

5  TEU, art 15.

6  TEU, art 15.

7  TFEU, arts 289, 294.

8  TFEU, art 288.

9  TEU, arts 9–10; TFEU, art 223.

10  TEU, art 16.

11  TFEU, arts 293–296.

12  TFEU, art 263.

13  For further detail on Schengen and Covid-19, see S Carrera and N C Luk, ‘In the Name of Covid-19: An Assessment of the EU Border Controls and Travel Restrictions in the EU’ European Parliament (September 2020); for a detailed legal analysis of the Schengen Agreement, see D O'Keeffe, ‘The Schengen Convention: A Suitable Model for European Integration?’ (1991) 11(1) Yearbook of European Law 185–219.

14  For an introduction to Eurozone law, see Hinarejos, A ‘Economic and Monetary Union’ in C Barnard and S Peers (eds), European Union Law (OUP 2020), 583–611; on how Eurozone law works in practice, see, for example H Schepel, ‘The Bank, the Bond, and the Bailout: On the Legal Construction of Market Discipline in the Eurozone’ (2017) 44 Journal of Law and Society 79–98.

15  TEU, arts 4–5; TFEU, arts 2–6.

16  TFEU, art 3.

17  TFEU, art 4.

18  TFEU, art 4(2)(k); TFEU, art 168.

19  TFEU, art 9; see T Hervey, ‘EU health law’ in C Barnard and S Peers (eds) European Union Law (OUP 2020).

20  TFEU, art 168.

21  Case 26/62 Van Gend en Loos [1963] ECR 1, EU:C:1963:1 (European Court of Justice) ( 5 February 1963).

22  TFEU, art 168(7).

24  For details, see European Commission, ‘European Structural and Investment Funds’ (accessed 17 January 2022).

26  TFEU, art 122.

27  European Commission, ‘Conference on the Future of Europe’ (accessed 17 January 2022).

28  European Commission, ‘European Health Union’ (accessed 17 January 2022); contrast the more ambitious reforms called for by the civil society-led ‘Manifesto for a European Health Union’ (accessed 17 January 2022).

29  For a critique, see, for example, A Alemanno, ‘Towards a European Health Union: Time to Level Up’ (2020) 11 European Journal of Risk Regulation 721–725.

30  European Commission, ‘Joint Declaration on the Conference on the Future of Europe’ (10 March 2021).

31  European Commission, ‘Timeline of EU action’ (accessed 17 January 2022).

34  Apparently via a press release: Court of Justice of the European Union, ‘Continuity of the European public administration of justice: the Court of Justice of the European Union provides for hearings to resume from 25 May 2020’ (27 April 2020).

36  Court of Justice of the European Union, ‘Covid-19 – Information - Parties before the Court of Justice’ (accessed 17 January 2022).

40  The EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement (17 October 2019).

41  The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement; on a possible breach, see discussion on Twitter: @StevePeers ‘On free trade agreements and export bans’ (accessed 17 January 2022).

42  World Health Organization, ‘WHO Director-General's opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19’ (11 March 2020).

43  European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, ‘Introducing a coherent European framework for tuning COVID-19 response measures’ (17 March 2021).

44  TFEU, art 288.

46  European Commission Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety, ‘Audio meeting of the Health Security Committee’ (17 January 2020).

49  See, for example, the litigation brought in the German Federal Constitutional Court in late March 2021: J Treeck, ‘Constitutional complaint against EU recovery fund filed in Germany’ Politico (Online, 26 March 2021); Germany’s highest court blocks ratification of EU recovery fund’ Financial Times (Online, accessed 30 January 2022).

50  Judgment concerning the joined constitutional complaints 2 BvR 859/15, 2 BvR 1651/15, 2 BvR 2006/15 and 2 BvR 980/16 (German Constitutional Court): see European Commission, ‘June infringements package: key decisions’ (9 June 2021).

51  Such as for the adoption of delegated acts, TFEU, art 290, and implementing acts, art 291.

53  See, seminally, C Harlow, Accountability in the European Union (OUP 2002); D Curtin, The Executive Power of the European Union: Law, Practices and the Living Constitution (OUP 2009).

54  See TFEU, arts 263, art 267(b); for further information, see, eg, A Arnull, ‘Judicial Review in the European Union’ in D Chalmers and A Arnull (eds), The Oxford Handbook of European Union Law (OUP 2015); individual applicants have very limited locus standi to bring judicial review claims in EU law, see Case 25/62, Plaumann & Co v Commission ECLI:EU:C:1963:17 (European Court of Justice) (15 July 1963); this has been the subject of criticism in the context of EU pharmaceutical law, see, eg, J Abraham and C Davis, ‘Science, Law, and the Medico-Industrial Complex in EU Pharmaceutical Regulation: The Deferiprone Controversy’ in M Flear et al (eds), European Law and New Health Technologies (OUP 2013); T Hervey, ‘EU Health Law’ in C Barnard and S Peers (eds) European Union Law (OUP 2020).

55  TFEU, art 267.

59  See, for example, the contributions to D Hodson and L Quaglia (eds), ‘Special Issue: European Perspectives on the Global Financial Crisis’ (2009) 47(5) Journal of Common Market Studies 939–953.

60  See, for example, P J Cardwell, ‘Tackling Europe’s Migration “Crisis” through Law and “New Governance”’ (2018) 9(1) Global Policy 67–75.

61  TEU, art 15.

62  O Stefan, ‘COVID-19 Soft Law: Voluminous, Effective, Legitimate? A Research Agenda’ (2020) 5 European Papers 663–670; M Eliantonio and O Stefan, ‘The Elusive Legitimacy of EU Soft Law: An Analysis of Consultation and Participation in the Process of Adopting COVID-19 Soft Law in the EU’ (2021) 12 European Journal of Risk Regulation 159–175.

63  TFEU, art 288.

64  For an in-depth analysis of the roles of soft law in the EU, see L Senden, Soft Law in European Community Law: Its Relationship to Legislation (Wolf Legal Publishers 2003); O Stefan, M Avbelj, M Eliantonio, et al, ‘EU Soft Law in the EU Legal Order: A Literature Review’ King's College London Law School Research Paper (4 March 2019).

65  European Commission and European Council, Joint European Roadmap towards lifting COVID-19 containment measures of 17 April 2020 (OJ C 126/1).

72  O Stefan, ‘COVID-19 Soft Law: Voluminous, Effective, Legitimate? A Research Agenda’ (2020) 5 European Papers 663–670; M Eliantonio and O Stefan, ‘The Elusive Legitimacy of EU Soft Law: An Analysis of Consultation and Participation in the Process of Adopting COVID-19 Soft Law in the EU’ (2021) 12 European Journal of Risk Regulation 159–175.

73  O Stefan, ‘COVID-19 Soft Law: Voluminous, Effective, Legitimate? A Research Agenda’ (2020) 5 European Papers 663–670.

84  Case 9/56 Meroni No 1 [1957–58] ECLI:EU:C:1958:7 (European Court of Justice) (13 June 1958).

85  See, in general, P Craig, EU Administrative Law (OUP 2019); and for a discussion of this process in the context of the EU’s evolving public health competence, see T Hervey, ‘The Role of the European Court of Justice in the Europeanization of Communicable Disease Control: Driver or Irrelevance?’ (2012) 37 Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law 977–1000.

87  TEU, art 17(8); TFEU, art 234.

88  In 2019, the European Parliament rejected three candidates proposed by the incoming von der Leyen Commission: see E S Nicolas, ‘This is the (finally) approved European Commission’ EU Observer (Online, 27 November 2019).

89  TFEU, art 263.

91  TFEU, art 225.

93  K Welle, ‘The European Parliament in the Time of Coronavirus’ Robert Schumann Foundation Study (accessed 28 January 2022), 6.

94  K Welle, ‘The European Parliament in the Time of Coronavirus’ Robert Schumann Foundation Study (accessed 28 January 2022), 4–5.

95  European Parliament, ‘How Parliament works during a pandemic’ (16 April 2020).

96  At least until the end summer 2020, the time period reported in S Russak and D Fenner, ‘Crisis decision-making: How Covid-19 has changed the working methods of the EU institutions’ CEPS Policy Insight (July 2020).

97  K Welle, ‘The European Parliament in the Time of Coronavirus’ Robert Schumann Foundation Study (accessed 28 January 2022), 6–7.

104  K Welle, ‘The European Parliament in the Time of Coronavirus’ Robert Schumann Foundation Study (accessed 28 January 2022); S Russak and D Fenner, ‘Crisis decision-making: How Covid-19 has changed the working methods of the EU institutions’ CEPS Policy Insight (July 2020).

106  Case T-710/21 R Roos and ors v Parliament ECLI:EU:T:2021:838 (General Court, Order of the President of the Tribunal) (3 November 2021); and Case T-722/21 D’Amato and ors v Parliament (unreported).

107  TFEU, art 227.

109  Some meetings are in-person, others are held virtually, see European Council, ‘Meeting Calendar’ (accessed 14 January 2022).

112  Apparently COREPER continued to meet in person, at least until the end summer 2020, the time period reported in S Russak and D Fenner, ‘Crisis decision-making: How Covid-19 has changed the working methods of the EU institutions’ CEPS Policy Insight (July 2020).

113  European Ombudsman Press Release, ‘Ombudsman asks Council to improve transparency of its decision making’ (25 March 2021).

115  See EMA, ‘EMA to issue electronic certificates for medicines’ (30 March 2020).

116  CJEU, ‘Important Messages For Parties’ (accessed 27 May 2021).

117  CJEU, ‘Covid-19 Information: Parties before the Court of Justice’ (accessed 13 July 2021).

119  C Popotas, ‘COVID-19 and the Courts. The case of the CJEU’ (2020) 2/3(7) Access to Justice in Eastern Europe 160–171; the CJEU was asked to consider whether Italian Covid-19 arrangements inter alia affecting the Italian judicial system breach EU law obligations, see Case C-220/20 XX v OO ECLI:EU:C:2020:1022 (Court of Justice, Order of the Court (Tenth Chamber)) (10 December 2020), but rejected the claim as manifestly inadmissible.

120  Eg ‘Tom Vandenkendelaere MEP’ (accessed 13 July 2021); ‘Sara Mattieu MEP’ (accessed 13 July 2021).

121  TFEU, art 179.

122  TFEU, art 191.

123  See, eg, Case T-74/00 Artegodan ECLI:EU:T:2002:283 (Court of First Instance) (26 November 2002); Case T-13/99 Pfizer ECLI:EU:T:2002:209 (Court of First Instance) (11 September 2002).

124  See, eg, E Vos ‘Antibiotics, the Precautionary Principle and the Court of First Instance: Cases T-13/99 Pfizer Animal Health SA v Council of the European Union and T-70/99 Alpharma Inc. v Council of the European Union’ (2004) 11(2) Maastricht Journal of European and Comparative Law 187–200; E Fisher, ‘Opening Pandora’s Box: Contextualising the Precautionary Principle in the EU’ in E Vos, M Everson, and J Scott (eds) Uncertain Risks Regulated: National, EU and International Regulatory Models Compared (UCL Press 2008) (Oxford Legal Studies Research Paper No 2/2007).

126  For a definition, see EUR-Lex, ‘Acquis’ (accessed 30 January 2022).

129  See S L Greer (ed), The Politics of Communicable Disease Control in Europe (2012) 37(6) Special issue of the Journal of Health Politics, Policy, and Law.

138  TFEU, art 15(1).

139  TFEU, art 15(3).

141  An early example is J Braithwaite, Corporate Crime in the Pharmaceutical Industry (Routledge & Kegan Paul 1984); for discussion of the European Union dimensions, see T Hervey and J McHale, European Union Health Law: Themes and Implications (CUP 2015), 319–320, 322–347, 508; for discussion of a case study involving the EMA and the European Ombudsman (Part III.G), see P C Gøtzsche and A W Jørgensen, ‘Opening Up Data at the European Medicines Agency’ British Medical Journal (2011).

142  TFEU, art 228.

143  TFEU, art 228.

144  See I Harden, ‘When Europeans complain: The work of the European Ombudsman’ (2009) 3 Cambridge Yearbook of European Legal Studies 199–237.

145  European Ombudsman, ‘Transparency of the EU Covid-19 crisis response’ (14 September 2020).

152  See E Hickey and M Weimer, ‘The Transparency of EU Agency Science – Towards a New Proactive Approach Post-Covid19’ Amsterdam Law School Research Paper No 2021-38 (12 November 2021).

153  See, for example, A Alemanno, ‘The European Response to COVID-19: From Regulatory Emulation to Regulatory Coordination?’ (2020) 11(2) European Journal of Risk Regulation 307–316.

154  K Purnhagen, A de Ruijter, M Flear, et al, ‘More Competences than you knew: the web of health competences for Union action in response to the COVID-19 outbreak’ (2020) 11 European Journal of Risk Regulation 297–306.

155  European Commission and European Council, Joint European Roadmap towards lifting COVID-19 containment measures of 17 April 2020 (OJ C 126/1).

156  See, eg, A Alemanno, ‘The European Response to COVID-19: From Regulatory Emulation to Regulatory Coordination?’ (2020) 11 European Journal of Risk Regulation 315.

157  European Commission, ‘EU Scientific Advice platform on COVID-19’ (accessed 18 January 2022).

164  TEU, art 3(2); TFEU, art 21; TFEU, titles IV and V; and Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, art 45.

165  TFEU, art 45(3)] (free movement of workers); TFEU, art 21(1) (free movement of EU citizens ‘subject to the limitations and conditions laid down in the Treaties and by the measures adopted to give them effect’); Directive 2004/38 on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States (OJ L 158/77), arts 27 and 29.

170  Schengen Borders Code, art 27.

171  For details, see the relevant country reports. These were not universally applicable—several categories of essential workers, such as in the transport and health care sectors, were excluded. For discussion, see, eg, S Robin-Olivier, ‘Free Movement of Workers in the Light of the COVID-19 Sanitary Crisis: From Restrictive Selection to Selective Mobility’ (20250) 5(1) European Papers 613–619.

181  S Carrera and N Chun Luk, ‘Love thy neighbour? Coronavirus politics and their impact on EU freedoms and rule of law in the Schengen Area’ CEPS paper No 2020-04 (April 2020), 14.

183  European Commission and European Council, Joint European Roadmap towards lifting COVID-19 containment measures (17 April 2020).

187  The map can be found at: ECDC, ‘Maps in support of the Council Recommendation on a coordinated approach to travel measures in the EU’ (accessed 28 January 2022).

190  ECDC, ‘Maps in support of the Council Recommendation on a coordinated approach to travel measures in the EU’ (accessed 28 January 2022); European Union, ‘Re-Open EU’ (accessed 28 January 2022).

193  The 30-day limitation placed on travel into the EU via European Commission ‘Communication from the Commission, Covid-19: Temporary Restriction on Non-Essential Travel to the EU’ (COM(2020) 115 final) (19 March 2020) was prolonged by further Commission communications: COM(2020) 148 final (8 April 2020); COM(2020) 222 final (8 May 2020); and COM (2020) 399 final (11 June 2020).

207  Commission Proposal COM(2021) 130 final, iart 15, foresaw the suspension of the digital certificate measure after the end of the Covid-19 pandemic, but also a possibility to reactivate it where ‘the Director-General of the World Health Organization declares a public health emergency of international concern in relation to SARS-CoV-2, a variant thereof, or similar infectious diseases with epidemic potential’.

213  O J Gstrein, D Kochenov, A Zwitter, ‘A Terrible Great Idea? COVID-19 ‘Vaccination Passports’ in the Spotlight’ (March 2021) Working Paper No 153, Centre on Migration, Policy & Society, University of Oxford.

214  From the rich discussion see eg L Bialasewicz and A Alemanno, ‘Symposium on COVID-19 Certificates’ European Journal of Risk Regulation (forthcoming); A Alemanno and L Bialasewicz, ‘Certifying Health - The Unequal Legal Geographies of COVID-19 Certificates’ European Journal of Risk Regulation (June 2021); L Bialasiewicz and A Alemanno, ‘The dangerous illusions of an EU “vaccine passport”’ Open Democracy (Online, 9 March 2021); L Taylor, S Milan, M Veale, et al, ‘Immunity Certification Theater’, Lex-Atlas: Covid-19 (Online, 14 May 2021); EU vaccine passport: An ethical and legal minefield?’ Deutsche Welle (Online, 2 March 2021); on some of the legal issues in Germany, see, eg A Klafki, ‘Der Immunitätsausweis und der Weg zurück in ein freiheitliches Leben’, VerfassungsBlog (Online, 4 May 2020); on some of the practical, as well as legal and ethical issues, see, eg, H T Greely, ‘COVID-19 immunity certificates: science, ethics, policy, and law’ (2020) 7(1) Journal of Law and the Biosciences; or M Hall and D Studdert, ‘“Vaccine Passport” Certification — Policy and Ethical Considerations’ New England Journal of Medicine (2021).

215  Action brought on 30 August 2021: Abenante and ors v Council and Parliament Case T-527/21 (General Court, Order from the President of the Court) (29 October 2021).

216  Abenante and ors v Council and Parliament Case T-527/21 (General Court, Order from the President of the Court) (29 October 2021).

230  ECDC, ‘Technical Report - COVID-19 in children and the role of school settings in transmission’ (6 August 2020, updated 23 December 2020), the guidance was updated on 8 July 2021 in response to the changed epidemiological situation due to the spread of the Delta variant.

231  ECDC, ‘Objectives for COVID-19 testing in school settings’ (10 August 2020).

245  European Commission, ‘Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the European Council and the Council on additional COVID-19 response measures’ (28 October 2020), 6–7; see further European Commission, ‘Public procurement of medical and protective equipment’ (accessed 28 January 2022).

251  The latest version is ECDC, ‘Technical Report - Guidance for discharge and ending of isolation of people with COVID-19’ (16 October 2020).

253  EU, ‘Coronavirus Global Response’ (accessed 28 January 2022).

257  The tests are medical devices which were regulated under Directive 98/79/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 October 1998 on in vitro diagnostic medical devices (OJ L 331/1); until 26 May, when Regulation (EU) 2017/746 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 April 2017 on in vitro diagnostic medical devices (the application of the Regulation was postponed at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic).

264  ECDC, ‘Technical Report - Options for the use of rapid antigen tests for COVID-19 in the EU/EEA and the UK’ (19 November 2020); this Technical Report was updated in October 2021: ECDC, ‘Options for the use of rapid antigen tests for COVID-19 in the EU/EEA - first update’ (26 October 2021).

270  The legal basis for EU measures is to be found in the approximation of laws provision: TFEU, art 114, in conjunction with art 168(4), which allows for EU legislative action in order to contribute to the achievement of public health objectives through ‘[m]easures setting high standards of quality and safety for medicinal products and devices for medical use’.

271  For overviews of the pharmaceutical regulatory framework, see E Jackson, Law and the Regulation of Medicines (OUP 2012); S Shorthose, Guide to European Pharmaceutical Regulatory Law (Alphen aan den Rijn 2017); M Manely and M Vickers (eds), Navigating European Pharmaceutical Law (OUP 2015).

275  For example, on 26 October 2020, ECDC published a report on ‘Key aspects regarding the introduction and prioritisation of COVID-19 vaccination in the EU/EEA and the UK’; on 22 December 2020, ECDC published a new overview of ‘COVID-19 vaccination and prioritisation strategies in the EU/EEA’.

279  UK Government, ‘Regulatory approval of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca’ (updated 26 January 2022).

284  Cases T-96/21, T-136/21, T-165/21 and T-267/21 Amort and ors v Commission (General Court) (action brought on 16 February 2021).

285  Amort and ors v Commission Case T-267/21 (Order of the General Court (Eighth Chamber)) (9 November 2021) (available in French and German only).

286  Agreiter and ors v Commission Case T-632/21 (General Court) (action brought on 1 October 2021); Faller and ors v Commission Case T-464/21 (General Court) (action brought on 30 July 2021).

288  European Commission, ‘Emergency Support Instrument’ (accessed 28 January 2022).

289  European Commission, ‘Safe COVID-19 vaccines for Europeans’ (accessed 28 January 2022).

293  Cases T-151/21, T-154/21 and T-232/21 Saure v Commission (General Court) (action brought on 19 March 2021).

295  Our World In Data, ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccinations’ (accessed 24 June 2021).

298  EMA, ‘Monitoring vaccine safety and use in real life’ (accessed 28 January 2022).

300  European Commission, ‘Global response to coronavirus’ (accessed 28 January 2022).

302  European Commission, ‘Belgian Court orders AstraZeneca to deliver vaccine doses to the EU’ (18 June 2021).

307  EMA, ‘COVID-19 treatments’ (accessed 28 January 2022).

309  EMA, ‘COVID-19 treatments’ (accessed 28 January 2022).

312  Guidance on data protection was provided also by the Commission: European Commission, ‘Communication from the Commission Guidance on Apps supporting the fight against COVID 19 pandemic in relation to data protection’ (16 April 2020).

320  European Commission, ‘eHealth Network’ (accessed 28 January 2022).

333  See, eg, H Brand et al, ‘Cross Border health activity in the Euregios: Good practice for better health’ (2008) 86 (2–3) Health Policy 245–254.

335  See also the section on travel restrictions in this report. European Commission, ‘Communication from the Commission - Guidelines concerning the exercise of the free movement of workers during COVID-19 outbreak’ (30 March 2020). For discussion, see, eg, S Robin-Olivier, ‘Free Movement of Workers in the Light of the COVID-19 Sanitary Crisis: From Restrictive Selection to Selective Mobility’ (2020) 5(1) European Papers 613–619.

338  TFEU, art 168(7).

342  European Commission, ‘Monitoring the application of European Union law’ (23 July 2021), 4.

343  See European Commission, ‘July infringement packages: key decisions’ (2 July 2020); both Greece and Italy have taken measures that do not comply with EU rules on air passenger rights, Regulation (EC) No 261/2004; and on waterborne travel, Regulation (EU) No 1177/2010.

344  European Commission, ‘Monitoring the application of European Union law’ (23 July 2021), 4.

345  Commission v Slovak Republic Case C-540/21 (Court of Justice) (action brought on 27 August 2021).

347 EU Commission Urges Six Member States to Remove Some of Their COVID-19 Border Restrictions’ Schengen Visa Info News (Online, 24 February 2021).

348 EU Commission urges Ireland to rethink hotel quarantine’ Reuters (Online, 16 April 2021).

351  See, in general, D Garrote Sanchez, N Gomez Parra, C Ozden, et al, ‘Which Jobs Are Most Vulnerable to COVID-19? What an Analysis of the European Union Reveals’ World Bank Research and Policy Brief No 34 (11 May 2020); E Catellarian, ‘The European Union’s Financial Contribution to the Response to the Covid-19 Crisis : An Overview of the Existing Mechanisms, Proposals under Discussion and Open Issues’ (2020) 5(1) European Papers 1029.

355  European Commission, Temporary Framework for State aid measures to support the economy in the current COVID-19 outbreak, as amended (OJ C 91 I/1) (19 March 2020); for analysis of the EU state aids response, see, eg, A Rosano, ‘Adapting to Change: COVID-19 as a factor shaping EU State Aid Law’ (2020) 5 European Papers 621.

362  European Commission, ‘The State Aid Temporary Framework’ (accessed 29 July 2022).

363  European Commission, ‘Amendment to the Temporary Framework for State aid measures to support the economy in the current COVID-19 outbreak’ (OJ C 423/9) (28 October 2022).

367  See, eg, P Leino-Sandberg and M Ruffert, ‘Next Generation EU and its constitutional ramifications: A critical assessment’ (2022) 59 Common Market Law Review 433; B De Witte, ‘The European Union’s COVID-19 recovery plan: The legal engineering of an economic policy shift’ (2021) 58 Common Market Law Review 635; F Fabbrini, ‘The Legal Architecture of the Economic Responses to COVID-19: EMU Beyond the Pandemic’ (2021) 60 Journal of Common Market Studies 186; S Disegni (ed), Europe at a Crossroads after the Shock (2020); contrast JC Piris, ‘Why the German Constitutional Court will (Probably) Not Kill the €750bn Recovery Fund’ European Policy Centre (Online, 7 April 2021), who rejects any suggestion that this constitutes a ‘Hamiltonian moment’ for the EU.

368  Contrast B De Witte, ‘The European Union’s COVID-19 recovery plan: The legal engineering of an economic policy shift’ (2021) 58 Common Market Law Review 635; with P Leino-Sandberg and M Ruffert, ‘Next Generation EU and its constitutional ramifications: A critical assessment’ (2022) 59 Common Market Law Review 433; see also V Delhomme and T Hervey, ‘The European Union’s response to the Covid-19 crisis and (the legitimacy of) the Union’s legal order’ 2023 Yearbook of European Law forthcoming.

373  Fabbrini draws attention to the legal contestability of this choice, describing Next Generation EU as ‘based on a multifaceted legal constellation’, see F Fabbrini, ‘The Legal Architecture of the Economic Responses to COVID-19: EMU Beyond the Pandemic’ (2021) 60 Journal of Common Market Studies 186, 191.

374  The ‘right to democratic self-determination’ derives from Grundgesetz (German Basic Law), arts 38(1), 20(1)–(2), 79(3); it includes the security to the effect that the EU institutions may only exercise competences transferred to them in accordance with Article 23 Grundgesetz. The relationship between the Bundesverfassungsgericht and the EU is outside the scope of this chapter. For some reflections specific to the Covid-19 pandemic, see, for example, A Viterbo, ‘The PSPP Judgment of the German Federal Constitutional Court: Throwing Sand in the Wheels of the European Central Bank’ (2020) 5(1) European Papers 671.

376  It is on the Bundesverfassungsgericht’s list of important cases it intends to hear in 2022 (2 BvR 547/21, 2 BvR 798/21), see Bundesverfassungsgericht, ‘Preview for 2022’ (accessed 16 November 2022).

378  See B De Witte, ‘The European Union’s COVID-19 recovery plan: The legal engineering of an economic policy shift’ (2021) 58 Common Market Law Review 635, 644–646.

384  European Commission, ‘REACT-EU’ (accessed 16 November 2022).

385  European Commission, ‘€11 billion REACT-EU funds allocation now available for 2022’ (24 November 2021).

391  See European Commission, Beneficiary States of the EU Solidarity Fund Interventions since 2020 - only major public health emergency (updated 17 January 2022); available from European Commission, ‘EU Solidarity Fund’ (accessed 16 November 2022).

393  J Greiss, B Cantillon, and T Penne, ‘The Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived: A Trojan horse dilemma?’ (2020) 55 Social Policy Administration 4.

395  TFEU, art 18.

396  TFEU, arts 46, 50, 59.

398  TFEU, art 153(2)(b).

399  TFEU, art 155.

402  TFEU, arts 145, 148.

403  TFEU, art 121.

404  See S Sabato, B Vanhercke and S Spasova, ‘Listened to, but not heard? Social partners’ multilevel involvement in the European Semester’ (2017) European Social Observatory.

405  European Council, ‘European Semester in 2020’ (accessed 29 July 2022).

410  For a summary, see European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, ‘European directives on health and safety at work’ (accessed 29 July 2022).

414  TFEU, art 114.

416  S Sabato, B Vanhercke, and S Spasova, ‘Listened to, but not heard? Social partners’ multilevel involvement in the European Semester’ (2017) European Social Observatory.

417  A Nahles, ‘Report on Strengthening EU Social Dialogue’ (2021) European Commission.

418  Syndicat European Trade Union, ‘European Social Partners Joint Statement on Covid-19’ (16 March 2020).

420  European Commission, ‘Regulatory framework proposal on artificial intelligence’ (accessed 29 Juyly 2022).

423  Council of the European Union, ‘COVID-19: Council approves €87.4 billion in financial support for member states under SURE’ (25 September 2020).

425  European Commission, ‘European Commission issues first emission of EU SURE social bonds’ (21 October 2020).

426  European Commission, ‘EUR 17 billion EU SURE social bond listed on LuxSE’ (27 October 2020).

427  European Commission, ‘Commission disburses €17 billion under SURE to Italy, Spain and Poland’ (27 October 2020).

428  European Commission, ‘Commission disburses €14 billion under SURE to nine Member States’ (17 November 2020).

429  European Commission, ‘Commission disburses €8.5 billion under SURE to five Member States’ (1 December 2020).

430  European Commission, ‘Commission disburses €14 billion under SURE to nine Member States’ (2 February 2021).

432  European Commission ‘Commission proposes to grant additional €147 million to Hungary under SURE’ (21 December 2021).

438  See, eg, for Romania, N Banila, ‘EU puts on hold excessive deficit procedure for Romania due to Covid-19 uncertainties‘ SeeNews (Online, 18 November 2020).

444  European Commission, ‘Timeline’ (accessed 29 July 2022).

447  European Commission, ‘NextGenerationEU: European Commission endorses positive preliminary assessment of Croatia’s request for €700 million disbursement under the Recovery and Resilience Facility’ (10 November 2022); European Commission, ‘NextGenerationEU: European Commission endorses positive preliminary assessment of Italy’s request for €21 billion disbursement under the Recovery and Resilience Facility’ (22 September 2022); European Commission, ‘NextGenerationEU: European Commission endorses positive preliminary assessment of Romania’s request for €2.6 billon disbursement under the Recovery and Resilience Facility’ (15 September 2022); European Commission, ‘NextGenerationEU: European Commission endorses positive preliminary assessment of Latvia’s request for €201 million disbursement under the Recovery and Resilience Facility’ (29 July 2022); European Commission, ‘NextGenerationEU: European Commission endorses positive preliminary assessment of Slovakia’s request for €398.7 million disbursement under the Recovery and Resilience Facility’ (27 June 2022); European Commission, ‘NextGenerationEU: European Commission endorses positive preliminary assessment of Spain’s second payment request under the Recovery and Resilience Facility, for the disbursement of €12 billion’ (27 June 2022); European Commission, ‘NextGenerationEU: European Commission endorses positive preliminary assessment of Croatia’s request for €700 million disbursement under the Recovery and Resilience Facility’ (10 May 2022); European Commission, ‘NextGenerationEU: European Commission endorses positive preliminary assessment of Portugal’s request for €1.16 billion disbursement under the Recovery and Resilience Facility’ (25 March 2022); European Commission, ‘NextGenerationEU: European Commission endorses positive preliminary assessment of Greece’s request for €3.6 billion disbursement under Recovery and Resilience Facility’ (28 February 2022); European Commission, ‘NextGenerationEU: European Commission endorses positive preliminary assessment of Italy’s request for €21 billion disbursement under the Recovery and Resilience Facility’ (28 February 2022); European Commission, ‘NextGenerationEU: European Commission adopts positive preliminary assessment of Spain’s request for €10 billion disbursement under Recovery and Resilience Facility’ (3 December 2021); European Commission, ‘NextGenerationEU: European Commission endorses positive preliminary assessment of France’s request for €7.4 billion disbursement under the Recovery and Resilience Facility’ (26 January 2022)

448  European Commission, ‘Timeline’ (accessed 29 July 2022).

453  TEU, art 6(3).

458  European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, Considerations relating to social distancing measures in response to the COVID-19 epidemic (March 2020).

459  European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, Guidelines for the implementation of non-pharmaceutical interventions against COVID-19 (24 September 2020).

460  European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, ‘Coronavirus pandemic in the EU - Fundamental Rights Implications – Bulletin 5’ (29 September 2020).

461  European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, ‘Coronavirus pandemic in the EU - Fundamental Rights Implications - Bulletin 1’ (8 April 2020).

462  European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, Fundamental Rights Report - 2022 (8 June 2022).

463  See, in particular, I Goldner Lang, ‘“Laws of Fear” in the EU: The Precautionary Principle and Public Health Restrictions to Free Movement of Persons in the Time of COVID-19’ (2020) European Journal of Risk Regulation 1; G Davies, ‘Does Evidence-based EU Law Survive the Covid-19 Pandemic? Considering the Status in EU Law of Lockdown Measures which Affect Free Movement’ (2020) Frontiers in Human Dynamics; D Thym and J Bornemann, ‘Schengen and Free Movement Law During the First Phase of the Covid-19 Pandemic: Of Symbolism, Law and Politics’ (2020) 5 European Papers 1143.

471  TEU, art 6(3).

472  General Data Protection Regulation (OJ L 119/1), art 6.

473  For a definition of health data, see General Data Protection Regulation (OJ L 119/1), art 4(15).

474  General Data Protection Regulation (OJ L 119/1), art 9.

475  General Data Protection Regulation (OJ L 119/1), art 9(2).

476  General Data Protection Regulation (OJ L 119/1), art 9(2)(a).

477  General Data Protection Regulation (OJ L 119/1), art 9(2)(i).

478  General Data Protection Regulation (OJ L 119/1), arts 2(2)(d), 10, 23(1)(c)–(d).

479  H van Kolfschooten and A de Ruijter, ‘COVID-19 and privacy in the European Union: A legal perspective on contact tracing’ (2020) 41 Contemporary Security Policy 478; E Ventrella, ‘Privacy in emergency circumstances: data protection and the COVID-19 pandemic’ (2020) 21 ERA Forum 379.

481  European Data Protection Supervisor, Annual Report 2020 (2020).

488  Council of Europe, A Pierucci and JP Walter, ‘Joint Statement on Digital Contact Tracing’ (28 April 2020).

489  Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, ‘Tracking and tracing COVID: Protecting privacy and data while using apps and biometrics’ (23 April 2020).

490  See M Kȩdzior, ‘The right to data protection and the COVID-19 pandemic: the European approach’ (2021) ERA Forum 533.

491  European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, ‘Coronavirus Pandemic in the EU – Fundamental Rights Implications – Bulletin 2’ (30 April 2020), 46.

492  For further discussion, see I Beriain, The Ethical, Legal and Social Issues of Pandemics: An Analysis from the EU Perspective (Springer 2022) 14–19; H van Kolfschooten and A de Ruijter, ‘COVID-19 and privacy in the European Union: A legal perspective on contact tracing’ (2020) 41 Contemporary Security Policy 478; E Ventrella, ‘Privacy in emergency circumstances: data protection and the COVID-19 pandemic’ (2020) 21 ERA Forum 379; A Blasimme, A Ferretti, E Vayena, ‘Digital Contact Tracing Against COVID-19 in Europe: Current Features and Ongoing Developments’ (2021) Frontiers of Digital Health.

493  European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, ‘Coronavirus Pandemic in the EU – Fundamental Rights Implications – Bulletin 2’ (30 April 2020).

497  See the dedicated European Commission website: European Commission, ‘How tracing and warning apps can help during the pandemic’ (accessed 29 July 2022); European Commission, ‘Mobile contact tracing apps in EU Member States’ (accessed 29 July 2022).

498  Note that a judicial review case before the Court of First Instance was rejected for an interim remedy and is showing in July 2022 on the CJEU website as ‘unreported’ and ‘closed’, though decided in April 2022; Abenante and ors v European Parliament and Council of the European Union Case T-527/21 (29 April 2022) (General Court (Eighth Chamber)), the case is not based on breach of the right to privacy.

499  Other critiques concern allocation of competences, proportionality of restrictions on free movement, and non-discrimination/equity matters, see I Goldner Lang, ‘EU COVID-19 Certificates: A Critical Analysis’ (2021) 12 European Journal of Risk Regulation 298.

500  O Gstrein, ‘The EU Digital COVID Certificate: A Preliminary Data Protection Impact Assessment’ (2021) 12 European Journal of Risk Regulation 370.

501  G M Vergallo et al, ‘Does the EU COVID Digital Certificate Strike a Reasonable Balance between Mobility Needs and Public Health?’ (2021) Medicina 57, 1077

508  European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, ‘Coronavirus pandemic in the EU - Fundamental Rights Implications - Bulletin 1’ (8 April 2020).

509  See, for example, European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, ‘Coronavirus pandemic in the EU - Fundamental Rights Implications - Bulletin 4’ (29 July 2020).

512  D Phillips, C Duffy, et al, ‘Beyond the COVID-19 pandemic for working carers across the European Union: work, policy and gender considerations‘ (2022) 6 International Journal of Care and Caring 289.

514  See, for example, International Coalition of Medicines Regulatory Authorities, ‘Pregnancy and Lactation Workshop’ (9 February 2021).

515  See, for example, European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, ‘Coronavirus pandemic in the EU - Fundamental Rights Implications - Bulletin 7’ (16 June 2021).

516  European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, Technical Report: Guidance on the provision of support for medically and socially vulnerable populations in EU/EEA countries and the United Kingdom during the COVID-19 pandemic (3 July 2020); citing Public Health England, ‘Disparities in the risk and outcomes of COVID-19’ (August 2020); T Cook, E Kursumovic, and S Lennane, ‘Exclusive: deaths of NHS staff from Covid-19 analysed’ (2020) Health Service Journal; T Kirby, ‘Evidence mounts on the disproportionate effect of COVID-19 on ethnic minorities’ (2020) 8 The Lancet Respiratory Medicine 6, 547–48.

517  European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, Technical Report: Guidance on the provision of support for medically and socially vulnerable populations in EU/EEA countries and the United Kingdom during the COVID-19 pandemic (3 July 2020); citing C Kühlbrandt, K Footman, B Rechel, et al, ‘An examination of Roma health insurance status in Central and Eastern Europe’ (2014) 24 European Journal of Public Health 5, 707–12.

518  European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, Technical Report: Guidance on the provision of support for medically and socially vulnerable populations in EU/EEA countries and the United Kingdom during the COVID-19 pandemic (3 July 2020); citing L Eklund Karlsson, KC Ringsberg, and K Crondahl, ‘Work-integrated learning and health literacy as catalysts for Roma empowerment and social inclusion: A participatory action research’ (2019) 17 Action Research 4, 549–72; M Stoynovska, M Karcheva, G Petrov, et al, ‘Focus on health literacy, lifestyle, and health care of Roma population in Pleven region, Bulgaria’ (2018) European Journal of Public Health 28.

520  See European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, ‘Coronavirus pandemic in the EU - Fundamental Rights Implications’ (accessed 5 April 2022), Bulletins 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7.

521  European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, ‘Coronavirus pandemic in the EU - Fundamental Rights Implications - Bulletin 5’ (29 September 2020).

526  See European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, ‘Coronavirus pandemic in the EU - Fundamental Rights Implications’ (accessed 5 April 2022), Bulletins 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7.

528  See, for example, the European Disability Forum’s May 2020 Webinar, ‘EU Structural Investment Funds and Covid-19’ (7 May 2020).

531  See European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, ‘Coronavirus pandemic in the EU - Fundamental Rights Implications’ (accessed 5 April 2022), Bulletins 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7.

534  European Commission, ‘Fight against child sexual abuse’ (accessed 23 March 2022).

535  European Commission, ‘The EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child and the European Child Guarantee’ (24 March 2021).

536  European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, ‘Coronavirus pandemic in the EU - Fundamental Rights Implications - Bulletin 3’ (30 June 2020).

538  Faller and ors v European Commission Case T-464/21 (7 February 2022) (Order of the General Court).

539  TFEU, art 263.

540  European Medicines Agency, ‘Comirnaty COVID-19 vaccine: EMA recommends approval for children aged 5 to 11’ (25 November 2021).

542  European Medicines Agency, ‘EMA recommends approval of Spikevax for children aged 6 to 11’ (24 February 2022).

544  European Vaccination Information Portal, ‘COVID-19 vaccines’ (accessed 29 July 2022).

547  T Marguery, ‘Towards the end of mutual trust? Prison conditions in the context of the European Arrest Warrant and the transfer of prisoners framework decisions’ (2018) 25(6) Maastricht Journal of European and Comparative Law 704; A Martufi, ‘Prison conditions and judicial cooperation in the EU. What future for the European Arrest Warrant?’ (2021) 11 European Criminal Law Review 87.

548  For a brief and accessible summary of how the European Court of Human Rights jurisprudence interacts with the CJEU’s jurisprudence in this area, see S O’Leary, ‘Conditions of detention in the case-law of the two European courts’ (April 2019), 14–18; for more detail, see, for instance, D van Zyl Smit and S Snacken, Principles of European Prison Law and Policy (OUP 2009).

550  See European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, Guidance on Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions (24 September 2020); European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, ‘Coronavirus pandemic in the EU - Fundamental Rights Implications’ (accessed 5 April 2022), Bulletins 2, 3, 4, 7.

551  European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, ‘Coronavirus pandemic in the EU - Fundamental Rights Implications - Bulletin 7’ (16 June 2021).

556  European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, ‘Coronavirus pandemic in the EU - Fundamental Rights Implications - Bulletin 3’ (30 June 2020).

557  European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, Guidance on Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions (24 September 2020), 15.

558  See European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, ‘Coronavirus pandemic in the EU - Fundamental Rights Implications’ (accessed 5 April 2022), Bulletins 1, 3, 4, 7.

560  M Stierl, ‘Migration: How Europe Is Using Coronavirus to Reinforce Its Hostile Environment in the Mediterranean’ (2020) The Conversation; D Thym and J Bornemann, ‘Schengen and Free Movement Law During the First Phase of the Covid-19 Pandemic: Of Symbolism, Law and Politics’ (2020) 5 European Papers 1143; J Reynolds, ‘Fortress Europe, Global Migration & the Global Pandemic’ (2020) American Journal of International Law Unbound 114; LP Feld et al, No Retreat into Fortress Europe! (Stiftung Marktwirtschaft 2020); F Schimmelfennig ‘Rebordering Europe: external boundaries and integration in the European Union’ (2021) 28 Journal of European Public Policy 311; I Goldner Lang, ‘“Laws of Fear” in the EU: The Precautionary Principle and Public Health Restrictions to Free Movement of Persons in the Time of COVID-19’ (2020) European Journal of Risk Regulation 1; M Stierl and D Dadusc, ‘The “Covid excuse”: European border violence in the Mediterranean Sea’ (2022) 45 Ethnic and Racial Studies 1453; though note that some have argued that national external bordering is more likely than EU action, see M Eilstrup-Sangiovanni, ‘Re-bordering Europe? Collective action barriers to ‘Fortress Europe’ (2021) 28 Journal of European Public Policy 447.

561  See, eg P R Ireland, ‘Facing the True Fortress Europe: Immigrant and Politics in the EC’ (1991) 29 Journal of Common Market Studies 457; S Peers, ‘Building fortress Europe: the development of EU migration law’ (1998) 35 Common Market Law Review 1235; B Hepple, ‘Race and law in fortress Europe’ (2004) 67(1) The Modern Law Review 1.

562  See, for instance, from a significant literature, K Nicolaïdis, B Sèbe, and G Maas (eds) Echoes of empire: Memory, identity and colonial legacies (Bloomsbury Publishing 2014); the contributions to the special issue of (2020) 22(6) International Journal of Postcolonial Studies, edited by M Pace and R Roccu; I Ward, A Critical Introduction to EU Law (Cambridge University Press 2011).