The European Response to COVID19: From Regulatory Emulation to Regulatory Coordination?

European Journal of Risk Regulation, Issue 2/2020

HEC Paris Research Paper No. LAW-2020-1372

15 Pages Posted: 29 Apr 2020 Last revised: 9 Jul 2020

Date Written: April 28, 2020


COVID-19 is a matter of common European interest since its very first detection on the continent. Yet this pandemic outbreak has largely been handled as an essentially national matter.

This article makes a first attempt at unpacking how such fragmented, uncoordinated national responses to COVID19 came into being under the EU legal order. To do so, it systematizes the European response into separate stages. Phase 1 – the emergency – has been characterized by the adoption of national emergency risk management measures that, albeit country specific, were inspired by a common objective of pandemic suppression, i.e. to reduce disease transmission and thereby diminishing pressure on health services, under the by now well-known ‘flatten the curve’ imperative. Phase 2 – the lifting – is about the attempt at relaxing some of the national risk responses in a coordinated fashion to avoid creating negative spillovers or distortions – be they sanitary and/or financial – across the Union.

The article argues that contrary to conventional wisdom the resulting uncoordinated EU response to Covid-19 shouldn’t be seen as the inevitable consequence of the EU’s limited competence in public health. Against this backdrop, it strives to define the regulatory policy framework that might be governing the next phases of the European risk management response to this pandemic as they will emerge from a widely undefined yet unescapable dialectic between the Union and its member states. Ultimately, it predicts that by testing the outer limits of the EU public health competence COVID-19 is set to go down in history as a major catalyst in the advancement of EU health emergency action.

Keywords: Risk Regulation, EU law, COVID-19, Coronavirus, Suppression, Flatten the Curve, Precautionary principle, Cost-benefit analysis, Emergency Regulation, Worst-case scenarios, Risk vs risk, tradeoffs

JEL Classification: K3, K32, K33

Suggested Citation

Alemanno, Alberto, The European Response to COVID19: From Regulatory Emulation to Regulatory Coordination? (April 28, 2020). European Journal of Risk Regulation, Issue 2/2020, HEC Paris Research Paper No. LAW-2020-1372, Available at SSRN:

Alberto Alemanno (Contact Author)

HEC Paris ( email )

1 Rue de la libération


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