Triggering an EU-wide State of Emergency and other powers sought by the European Commission

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By Peter Grimm, a German journalist, writer and documentary producer, who also used to be a member of the opposition against the East German dictatorship, before it collapsed in 1989

The headline on sounds quite harmless: “EU Commission presents catalog of measures to fight future pandemics”. One would think this relates to joint vaccine procurement or to EU attempts to agree common rules on temporary border restrictions within the EU, which was once so borderless. The would-be all-powerful in Brussels, who are indeed able to strongly intervene into the everyday life of Europeans, did unintentionally prove during the Covid how powerless they can suddenly be.

No wonder that now also in Brussels, the thinking is that no crisis should go to waste. The EU Commission’s catalog of measures foresees some things that are highly dangerous for the freedom of Europeans.

Of course, the first things mentioned in the article sound expectable and harmless, as for example the expansion of the EU’s own capacities for short-term vaccine production. To have the EU Commission already dealing with vaccines for future pandemics may be supported by some, while others may object to it, but this is far from exciting.

“Instruments for crisis situations”

What risks to be overlooked are some of the dangerous proposals mentioned in the European Commission’s catalog. It follows a somewhat unclear declaration by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen that “together, we have achieved what no EU member state could have done on its own. However, we have also learned what worked well and what we can do better in future pandemics.”

These lessons are now supposed to be translated into policy changes. The general language expressed by von der Leyen becomes much more concrete when looking at an EU communication about this.

This contains some remarkable proposals. Apparently it’s needed to soon have a common EU stance on the pandemic, as the document outlines:

“The EU should appoint a European Chief Epidemiologist and a corresponding governance structure by the end of 2021.”

This would reduce the influence of those dissenting with the policies mostly followed during the Covid crisis, like Swedish state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell. He has been proven right to a far greater extent than his – de facto – counterparts in most EU member states who supported and justified the emergency policies of their governments.

What the “European Chief Epidemiologist” is supposed to legitimize can be found in the document as well:

“The EU should establish a framework for the activation of an EU Pandemic State of Emergency and a toolbox for crisis situations.”

In other words, the European Commission is seeking the power for EU institutions to be able to declare a state of emergency? Do these institutions have sufficient legitimacy to take decisions that cause the erosion of fundamental rights, or as much as the German federal government, to determine the national epidemiological situation? Should nation states then retain the right not to go along with the EU emergency, or should they not?

Obviously, the European Commission is craving for some of the extra powers that executives tend to obtain during times of emergency. At least, this is how the next point in the catalog of measures can be understood:

“Coordinated measures should become a reflex for Europe. The European Health Union should be adopted swiftly, before the end of the year and coordination and working methods should be strengthened between institutions.”

More power for the EU

What the European Commission is looking for, is clear from the 10 proposals lined out in its document: more power for the EU institutions in Brussels.

This push is especially disturbing, given the EU Commission’s infringement proceedings against Germany following the German Constitutional Court ruling differently than the European Court of Justice on the issue of ECB bond purchases. The Commission’s move ultimately undermines legal protection of citizens by courts in their own country.

This is at least the logical outcome of thinking through the path pursued by the European Commission’s proposals. However, let’s not continue to speculate and instead mention the last proposal from the Commission’s document:

“A more coordinated and sophisticated approach to tackling disinformation and disinformation should be developed.”

Apparently, the EU wants to define which information is accurate and which information is not, and then it intends to tackle the information it considers to be wrong. Supposedly, the “European Chief Epidemiologist” will then be the one responsible for the accuracy of the information.

The document mentions that the European Commission “will follow up with concrete deliverables in the second half of 2021.”

This deserves to be closely watched.

This article was originally published in German by

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