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(Last update: 20 July 2020) /\/\/\/\ Perhaps not always visible to or tangible for the general public, national, European and international law plays an important role in dealing with public health crises such as the global Covid-19/coronavirus pandemic and similar health threats. In a series of interviews, journal articles and news articles ACELG/ACES researcher Anniek de Ruijter, Kati Cseres, Maria Weimer, Filipe Brito Bastos and Hannah van Kolfschooten clarify what role law plays in dealing with public health and health risks on a national, European and international level.

Covid-19 lab testing
Photo: Governor Tom Wolf (via Flickr) - edited by ACELG

This overview lists media contributions published since mid-January 2020. It is continuously updated with new media coverage.

20 July 2020
(Anniek de Ruijter, Eleanor Brooks, Scott L. Greer)
EU Observer, 'How Covid-19 just transformed entire EU health policy'

8 July 2020
(Anniek de Ruijter, Scott Greer)
European Journal of Public Health, 'EU health law and policy in and after the COVID-19 crisis'

12 June 2020
(Kati Cseres, Augustin Reyna)
SSRN, 'EU State Aid Law and Consumer Protection: An Unsettled Relationship in Times of Crisis'

20 May 2020
(Hannah van Kolfschooten, Anniek de Ruijter)
Contemporary Security Policy, 'COVID-19 and privacy in the European Union: A legal perspective on contact tracing.' Also published in the ACELG working paper series, 'Covid-19 and Privacy in the European Union: A Legal Perspective on Contact Tracing'

In this article Van Kolfschooten and De Ruijter reason that when disease becomes a threat to security, the balance between the need to fight the disease and obligation to protect the rights of individuals often changes. Acoording to them, the current COVID-19 crisis shows that the need for surveillance and contact tracing poses challenges to the right of privacy. In the paper, they focus on the European Union (EU), which has some of the strongest fundamental rights and data protection regimes, yet requires its member states at the same time to exchange personal data gathered through contact tracing. While public authorities may limit the right to privacy in case of threats to public health, the EU provides little guidance when such limitations are proportionate. To define standards, we analyse existing EU case law regarding national security measures. They conclude that on the proportionality of contact tracing in the EU it is difficult to reconcile public health measures and individual rights, but guidance can be taken from understandings of proportionality in the context of security, particularly in the current COVID-19 emergency.

23 April 2020
(Marta Morvillo)
European Journal of Risk Regulation, 'I just can’t get enough (of experts): the numbers of COVID-19 and the need for a European approach to testing'

In this article, Marta Morvillo offers a reflection on the testing strategies deployed in the generation of epidemiological data in the European Union. She argues that, while in the early days of the pandemic Member States proceeded to testing in a rather scattered way, the shortage of resources seems to have acted as a driver of coordination, which is now increasingly being discussed at EU level. She examines the legal and institutional framework supporting such embryonic coordination efforts and offer a preliminary assessment of their implications for a European approach to epidemiological knowledge-making.

22 April 2020
(Maria Weimer, Alessio Pacces)
LSE EUROPP blog, 'We need a European exit strategy for Covid-19 before it’s too late'

In the Covid-19 crisis, Europe is paying a high price for diversity, write Alessio Pacces and Maria Weimer. The failure to coordinate national public health responses in the initial stage of the outbreak has undermined both the fight to save lives and core European values and principles. But the fight against Covid-19 is a marathon, not a sprint. Going forward, Europe’s survival will depend on how it handles the exit from this crisis. The Commission has published a European Roadmap for lifting Covid-19 measures – member states must follow its recommendations before it is too late.

16 April 2020
(Kai P Purnhagen, Mark L Flear, Tamara K Hervey, Alexia Herwig and Anniek de Ruijter)
European Journal of Risk Regulation, 'More competences than you knew? The web of health competences for Union action in response to the COVID-19 outbreak'

In this paper the authors argue that the European Union has more possible legal powers to create health law and policy in response to the COVID-19 outbreak than traditionally understood, particularly if the different iterations of the protection and  promotion of public and human health throughout the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU) are read in relation to one another. This alternative interpretation of the Union’s competence norms, the “legal bases” on which the Union institutions act, either to adopt binding legal rules, or persuasive measures, suggests that there are legal options that permit the Union a wider range of actions than it has taken to date, and which support, and go further than, the approaches that the European Commission (Commission) and European Centre for Disease Control have suggested in various policy documents, guidance and communications in March and April  2020. In  short, the authors are arguing that  legal impediments to Union action are less restrictive than commonly understood.


15 April 2020
(Maria Weimer, Alessio Pacces)
SSRN (forthcoming in European Journal of Risk Regulation), 'From Diversity to Coordination: A European Approach to COVID19'

In this paper the researchers propose that the EU indicates, not mandates, a European exit strategy from asymmetric containment policies of COVID19. In particular, the EU should help Member States procure and validate tests for infection and immunity. The EU should also indicate ways in which testing could be used to create safe spaces to work, thereby restoring the free movement of persons and of goods. We see a great advantage in such EU guidance: it could improve mutual learning between Member States, which have faced different timing of the epidemic and learned different lessons. Although the local political economy has so far delayed learning and undermined cooperation, the EU can mitigate both effects and indicate the way for Europe to resurrect united from the ashes of COVID19.

15 April 2020
(Anniek de Ruijter, Roel Beetsma, Brian Burgoon, Francesco Nicoli, Frank Vandenbroucke)
Netspar policy paper, 'EU solidarity and policy in fighting infectious diseases: state of play, obstacles, citizen preferences and ways forward'

In this paper the researchers confront the role the EU traditionally plays in the domain of health with the urgent need for collective action triggered by the corona pandemic. In the face of such a crisis, they argue that the joint procurement, stockpiling and allocation of medical countermeasures is a key component of true European solidarity, besides maintaining the integrity of the Single Market. They present the first results of a survey experiment taken before the current crisis on citizens’ attitudes towards centralizing at the EU level of policies to combat infectious diseases, which indicates considerable support. The researchers conclude that a more robust policy framework with substantial centralization of procurement, stockpiling and allocation is warranted.

8 April 2020
(Anniek de Ruijter)
Folia, ‘Ook in deze crisis moet de inperking van privacy proportioneel zijn

In this interview (in Dutch) Anniek speaks about the EU's health lawas and regulations and European cooperation during the current pandemic, the Dutch approach to dealing with the pandemic, individual rights and proportionality and limiting individual rights.

8 April
(Anniek de Ruijter)
VPRO, 'Ieder voor zich in de Europese strijd tegen het virus'

Anniek de Ruijter is interviewed alongside NOS Brussels correspondent Tijn Sadee about Mauro Ferrari's resignation as head of the European Research Council.

6-12 April 2020
(Anniek de Ruijter)
This week Anniek de Ruijter is editor of @NL_Wetenschap, a Dutch twitter account on science, with weekly changing editors. Anniek will be focusing on health, health law and Covid-19.

2 April 2020

(Anniek de Ruijter)
De Correspondent, ‘Wat zijn je grondrechten nog waard tijdens een pandemie? Deze jurist legt het uit’ (text & podcast - Dutch)

Anniek de Ruijter responds to questions by De Correspondent readers about (fundamental) rights and law during a pandemic.

31 March 2020
(Hannah van Kolfschooten, Bastiaan Wallage)
Financieel Dagblad, ‘Overheid, pas op met gezondheidsdata en massasurveillance’

The authors of this op-ed argue that mobile phone networks shouldn't unquestioningly share meta data with governments, as privacy remains a human right, even during the coronacrisis.

30 March 2020
(Hannah van Kolfschooten)
NRC, ‘Technologische hulp uit China is niet gratis’

In this article Hannah van Kolfschooten argues that the use of Chinese algorithms for diagnosing corona patients by Dutch hospitals is dangerous for patients’ privacy. The Chinese AI company requires hospitals to share data of Dutch patients. She proposes a new EU legal framework for AI in the health care sector.

27 March 2020
(Anniek de Ruijter, Roel Beetsma, Brian Burgoon, Francesco Nicoli, Frank Vandenbroucke)
De Morgen, ‘Europese solidariteit in de strijd tegen epidemieën is nodig, het draagvlak bij de bevolking lijkt er te zijn’ (access only with account)

In line with previous publications, the authors of this op-ed argue that European solidarity in addressing epidemics and the creation of a common storage system for relevant medication, vaccines and medical equipment  is necessary to succesfully address epidemics.

26 March 2020
(Anniek de Ruijter, Roel Beetsma, Brian Burgoon, Francesco Nicoli, Frank Vandenbroucke)
Politico, ‘Give the EU more power to fight epidemics – When countries put themselves first, no one wins’

In this article the authors argue that "creating a common storage system would allow the EU to have a central supply of medicines and equipment that is larger than any country could have individually" and that "Europe needs a central policy for infectious diseases — both in the interest of Europeans’ health and to ensure that countries do not unjustly invoke public health to evade internal market principles and undermine European solidarity."

26 March 2020
(Anniek de Ruijter, Roel Beetsma, Brian Burgoon, Francesco Nicoli, Frank Vandenbroucke)
VOX EU Policy Portal, ‘EU solidarity in fighting COVID-19: State of play, obstacles, citizens’ attitudes, and ways forward’

The authors argue that "an initiative to create centralised control of medical countermeasures at the EU level would solve many coordination issues in times of crisis." But they also point out that "a unified European response faces a number of legal and political obstacles." A survey conducted before the COVID-19 outbreak to understand EU citizens’ attitudes towards a joint solidarity programme suggests considerable support already exists for an effective policy framework centralising the procurement, stockpiling, and allocation of medicines.

26 March 2020
(Anniek de Ruijter)
Stuk Rood Vlees podcast, Aflevering 63 – De rechtsstaat in tijden van corona, met Anniek de Ruijter

In this podcast Anniek de Ruijter speaks about the tension between protecting public health and safeguarding human rights.

14 March 2020
(Martin McKee, Anniek de Ruijter and Mark Flear)
The Guardian, ‘Brexit threatens UK’s ability to respond to a future pandemic’

In this article, the three researchers explain the likely negative consequences Brexit might have on British society in case of widespread infectious diseases, pandemics and other mass health crises, because the UK will no longer be able to rely on the EU’s joint response mechanisms, such as bulk buying medicines and vaccines. The researchers also explain possible alternatives for the UK to mitigate these consequences of Brexit.

13 March 2020
(Anniek de Ruijter, Maria Weimer)
EU Law Live, ‘The Covid-19 crisis: lessons from Risk Regulation for EU leaders

Weimer and de Ruijter argue that the Covid-19 crisis puts Europe’s capacity to govern both effectively and legitimately to a test. It sheds light on the unique features of the European integration project (such as its commitment to unity in diversity), as well as unleashes some of its darker tendencies. Like in other situations of uncertainty and political and economic upheaval, this crisis can be both a threat to and an opportunity for European integration.

12 March 2020
(Anniek de Ruijter)
VPRO Bureau Buitenland, Wat hebben we aan de Europese Unie bij deze pandemie?

In this radio roundtable, ACELG researcher Anniek de Ruijter joins Dutch MEP Jan Huitema and EU Commission spokesperson Stefan De Keersmaecker to discuss the role of the European Union in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic and other international threats to public health.

7 March 2020
(Anniek de Ruijter)
Politico, ‘Europe fails to help Italy in coronavirus fight’

As one of the interviewees in this article, Anniek de Ruijter explains the role of the EU’s ‘Health Threat Decision’ taken in 2013 in order to improve preparedness across the EU and strengthen the capacity to coordinate response to health emergencies. She also explains that “the EU was best positioned to serve as a coordinator and let national and local governments work directly with citizens.”

5 March 2020
(Anniek de Ruijter, Constance Schultsz, Chris Pell, Danny de Vries)
University of Amsterdam, ‘UvA scientists explain the implications of the coronavirus’

As one of the interviewees, Anniek de Ruijter explains the relationship between the EU and Dutch rule of law and government action in emergency situations.

4 March 2020
(Mark Flear, Martin McKee, Anniek de Ruijter)
The Telegraph, ‘Coronavirus shows future access post-Brexit to the EU’s health security system remains vital’

In this article the three researchers argue that the UK should seek to continue its access to EU’s health security system, especially in order to enable the UK to better deal with emergency health situations.

14 February 2020
(Anniek de Ruijter)
Het Parool, ‘Mag je je verzetten tegen quarantaine? En nog 5 juridische vragen over het coronavirus’

De Ruijter explains the role and competences of the WHO in global health crises. She also clarifies the legal powers of (the Dutch) government to impose compulsory quarantine.

4 February 2020
(Anniek de Ruijter)
University of Amsterdam, ‘Five legal questions about the coronavirus’

Anniek de Ruijter speaks about the legality of state compulsory measures in emergency situations, about the adequacy of the Dutch Public Health Act and the UvA’s interdisciplinary ‘Global Health’ research priority area.

31 January 2020
(Mark Flear, Martin McKee, Anniek de Ruijter)
British Medical Journal, ‘Coronavirus shows how UK must act quickly before being shut out of Europe’s health protection systems’

The three researchers put the UK’s position post-Brexit into context of the EU’s relationship with the WHO as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland regarding collaboration on joint health care measures.

28 January 2020
(Anniek de Ruijter, Hannah van Kolfschooten)
NRC, ‘Denk aan rechten bij aanpak virus’

In this article in Dutch newspaper NRC, Hannah van Kolfschooten and Anniek de Ruijter place the seemingly far-reaching measures by the Chinese government in a legal context.

14 January 2020
(Filipe Brito-Bastos, Anniek de Ruijter)
European Journal of Risk Regulation, ‘Break or Bend in Case of Emergency?: Rule of Law and State of Emergency in European Public Health Administration’

In this article (coincidentally prepared already before the emergence of the Covid-19 health crisis), Brito Bastos and de Ruijter explore the impact of the role of the EU administration in responding to emergencies in terms of (changes to) the rule of law. They conclude that public health emergencies can bend and even break rule of law requirements for the EU administration, and advocate for more legal guidance on proportionality, which may offer better safeguards suited for protecting the rights of affected parties.