The European Court of Auditors (ECA) has reviewed the EU’s initial response to the COVID-19
crisis and draws attention to certain challenges faced by the EU in its support for Member
States’ public health actions. These include setting an appropriate framework for cross-border
health threats, facilitating provision of appropriate supplies in a crisis and supporting the
development of vaccines.
The EU’s public health competences are limited. It mainly supports the coordination of Member
State actions (through the Health Security Committee), facilitates procurement of medical
equipment (by creating joint procurement framework contracts), and gathers
information/assesses risks (through the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control -
ECDC). Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the EU took further action to address urgent
issues, facilitating the supply of medical equipment and information exchange between Member
States, as well as promoting testing, treatment and vaccine research. It allocated 3 % of its annual
budget by 30 June 2020 to support public health related measures.
“It was a challenge for the EU to rapidly complement the measures taken within its formal remit
and support the public health response to the COVID-19 crisis,” said Joëlle Elvinger, the ECA
member responsible for the review. “It is too soon to audit ongoing actions or assess the impact
of COVID-19 related public health EU initiatives, but these experiences can provide lessons for any
future reform of the EU’s competences in this field”.