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Over the past decade we have witnessed an increased readiness and growing infrastructure on the part of the EU and its member states to engage in emergency governance. On 7 December 2018, ACELG, ACES and Queen’s University Belfast Law School hosted a symposium to explore recent developments on European Governance of Health Crises and Disaster Management.

Over the past decade we have witnessed an increased readiness and growing infrastructure on the part of ‘Europe’ to engage in emergency governance. Many, if not most, of the key examples center on, or implicate public health, such as preparedness planning for terrorist attacks and pandemics. Other examples include the ongoing migration crisis, volcanic eruptions and farming techniques for cows.  The aim of the symposium was to provide the groundwork for the development of European governance of health crises and disaster management and to contribute towards an awareness and reflection with regard to the common core norms and values that shape the mechanisms that underpin future responses to emergencies in Europe. The symposium was jointly organized by Mark L. Flear (Queen’s University Belfast) and Anniek de Ruijter (University of Amsterdam, ACELG).

At the symposium, international participants from different countries and backgrounds shared their thoughts on the current state of European governance and management on health crises and disasters. The event was structured around three panels: concepts, tools and techniques, and processes, featuring a variety of scholars from several universities and disciplines.

Concepts

In the first panel, concepts, Dr Anniek de Ruijter was the opening speaker and presented a paper co-authored by Dr Filipe Brito Bastos on the rule of law and state of emergency in European health administration. Professor Tamara K Hervey followed and presented her paper on Brexit as a health crisis. Hannah van Kolfschooten concluded the panel with a presentation on the role of the right to informed consent in EU and WHO pandemic policies.

Tools and techniques

In the second panel, tools and techniques, Dr Patrycja Dąbrowska-Kłosińska discussed a specific aspect of the EU health threats decision: the use of electronic mechanisms of information exchange in European health crisis disaster management. Dr Rachael Dickson elaborated on the topic of health as a tactic in the management of migration in crisis in the European Union. Dr Marco Rizzi concluded the panel from Australia via Skype, speaking about vaccines as a tool to conceptualize the European take on pandemic and epidemic diseases.

Processes

The last panel, processes, was opened by Dr Mark L Flear, who spoke about the process of constituting the EU through health crisis and disaster management. The panel was closed by Dr Stephen L Roberts, who presented his paper on algorithmic regulation and pandemic surveillance in the EU.

Roundtable discussion

The panels were followed by a roundtable discussion with all speakers and participants. The presence of policy makers from both the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the Dutch National Coordination Centre for Communicable Disease Control (RIVM) provided insights into the more practical aspects of health crises governance at both the EU and (Dutch) national level.