The Grassroots View - Special episode - Make or break: Europe’s struggle with coronavirus

Is the EU rising to the challenge of COVID-19? Can people expect the EU to help them weather the storm this time, or will they feel let down as they did with the other two major crises of this century? As the outbreak sweeps across Europe taking a huge human toll and sowing massive economic havoc, EESC president Luca Jahier looks at the EU’s response so far, pointing to bold actions that only yesterday would have been taboo. But there is an extra mile to go, he says, charting a course that could help European leaders find a meeting ground. (ll)

Available Languages:


Europe must not only be saved, it must be relaunched!


Dear Readers,

The COVID-19 outbreak has turned into a fast-moving emergency, figures and measures are constantly changing across Europe and the world, affecting all levels of society.


Not since the end of the Second World War, has the global community faced such a dramatic crisis. No government in Europe or elsewhere can possibly think to solve such a pandemic alone. All the Member States must come together, to support each other and to coordinate a concerted action. A piecemeal approach by the individual Member States is a sure recipe for disaster. If we get this wrong, we may not have another opportunity to get it right.

By EESC members


As of April we will be publishing a series of articles entitled Dessine-moi…* written by EESC members.


In the time of coronavirus

By Isabel Caño Aguilar

We are experiencing exceptional and unusual circumstances.

On the one hand, we are isolated in our own countries, our own homes, and on the other hand, we know that the world cannot stop and that civil society keeps getting up every morning and starting work. This unprecedented situation is placing a heavy emotional burden on all of us.

A challenge we shall overcome

By Milena Angelova

COVID-19 is the biggest challenge we have faced this century. I shall not focus on the negative effects it causes – on our lives, basic rights and freedoms, the economy and wellbeing. Rather I will try to propose a positive and pragmatic view of how to make the most of the current situation. We can deal with this together, if we stay focused, work as a team and be responsible.

Solidarity against coronavirus

Interview with Giuseppe Guerini

Mr Guerini, how are you coping at this very difficult time?

I am feeling tremendous pressure, both professionally and personally. I live in Bergamo, at the epicentre of the epidemic in Italy and we are being overwhelmed by the suffering here and the sheer number of dead, with worry and a feeling of powerlessness gnawing away at us all the time. We all have friends, colleagues or acquaintances who have either died or who are fighting for their lives in intensive care units. 

Coronavirus will change our societies for the better

By Adam Rogalewski

The outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) will profoundly change our lives and will also change our countries, economies and societies. It has already made us realise how vulnerable we are despite the enormous improvements in our living conditions over the years, and technological progress, including digitalisation and artificial intelligence. We have also learnt, by staying isolated in our homes, just how important other people and society are to our daily lives. The coronavirus crisis very clearly invalidates the neo-liberal narrative that there is no such thing as society. At times of crisis like the one we are now witnessing, it is society, or in other words, people's solidarity, that can protect us from the effects of the virus.

Irreparable damage to the economy

By Helena De Felipe Lehtonen

In light of the current pandemic, which is affecting us all, but especially those of us who are older or have poorer health, I wonder whether the virus was developed in a laboratory and subsequently released, whether intentionally or not. As ordinary citizens don't know the answer to that question, and even though a vaccine may be available by autumn 2021, how do we know that another virus won't appear next winter with similar consequences? (Let's not forget the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.)

EU leaders on COVID-19 crisis

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission:

We will use all the tools at our disposal to contain the spread of the #coronavirus, help patients and make sure the European economy weathers the storm.
I'm convinced the EU can withstand the shock to our health care systems and our economies. But each Member State needs to live up to its full responsibility. And the European Union as a whole needs to be determined, coordinated and united.


A call for unprecedented solidarity

On 6 April, ahead of the Eurogroup meeting on 7 April, the European Economic and Social Committee adopted a declaration calling for unprecedented solidarity between Member States and for swift and urgent responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Addressing Member States of a community whose fates are intertwined, the EESC stressed the urgent need for joint action in the face of public health issues and the political, economic and social repercussions of the current crisis.

Now, we are either a Union or we are nothing. EESC statement on the COVID-19 epidemic

EESC members adopted a declaration on 17 March 2020 entitled Now, we are either a Union or we are nothing in response to the situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic. In it, they call for greater solidarity and joint action at European level to deal effectively with the consequences of the pandemic. Members underline the importance of joint action so that all Member States can come together, support one another and coordinate their actions.

Coronavirus response: Commission proposal on use of EU Solidarity Fund does not go far enough

On 25 March, the EESC adopted a generally favourable position on the European Commission's proposal to amend the Council Regulation on the European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF) in response to the coronavirus outbreak. While the EESC's position paper fully supports the proposed extension of the EUSF's scope, it considers the resources allocated to the financial instrument to be wholly insufficient and its financial provisions to be inadequate.

Coronavirus response: The EESC calls for a larger European investment plan

The EESC backs up the European Commission's Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative, but calls for a larger investment plan to support the Member States in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The initiative is aimed at promoting investment in the healthcare systems of the EU Member States and other sectors of their economies. The EU would mobilise cash reserves, i.e. unspent pre-financing for EU funds, and provide financial support.

Aviation: EESC supports suspension of EU rules on airport slot allocation

The EESC is throwing its support behind the Commission's proposal to temporarily suspend the EU regulations on airport slot allocation in light of the coronavirus outbreak. The Committee points out that the suspension should apply until the end of the 2020 summer schedule and that this urgent measure should be part of a much wider package to enable the EU aviation sector to recover after the coronavirus crisis.

News from the Groups

Coronavirus crisis: protect people's health, save the European economy

By the EESC Employers' Group

The coronavirus crisis is the greatest challenge that the EU has faced since its creation. It is an extremely difficult time for the EU Member States, companies and citizens. At the same time, the EU has an opportunity to once again prove its worth and meet its obligations by helping the EU countries recover from the resulting economic crisis.

Labour rights and democracy under attack

By the EESC Workers' Group

As the COVID-19 crisis continues to escalate across Europe, the Workers' Group of the European Economic and Social Committee is extremely concerned to hear about attacks on collective bargaining and workers' rights in certain Member States.

We are particularly alarmed by the situation in Poland, where the government is proposing emergency legislation to deal with COVID-19 that will infringe on the independence of the Social Dialogue Council and the autonomy of the social partners. The Workers' Group is also aware that in Italy, where the government and the social partners have reached an agreement that unemployment benefits for workers who cannot work during the COVID-19 crisis will be decided by collective bargaining, far-right politicians have called for the suspension of such collective bargaining.

Trusted media to counter fake news about COVID-19

By the EESCs Diversity Europe Group

Eating garlic, drinking hot water, avoiding ice cream… You might have come across this advice on the internet as ‘tips’ to avoid catching COVID-19. I recently spoke with a friend - I wont mention any names - and she said that it was so frustrating not being able to find real information on the virus. 


In short

The EESC backs up European Council’s decision to open accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia

Luca Jahier, President of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), and Dilyana Slavova, President of the External Relations Section, issued a joint statement on 26 March welcoming the Council's decision of 24 March 2020 to open accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia.

Cancellation of YEYS 2020: Europe's young people will have to wait to make their voice heard

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the 2020 Your Europe, Your Say! (YEYS) event, scheduled for Thursday 19 and Friday 20 March, has had to be cancelled. The decision was taken in the interest of everybody's health and safety, the key priority for the EESC in the context of the current pandemic. The organising team is now considering various alternatives for 2021, although no final decision has been taken so far.

The EESC in the media

We have selected for our readers a series of headlines from European media stories featuring the EESC's response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Austria – Kleine Zeitung - Kleine Zeitung - EWSA-Präsident Jahier"Entweder eine Union - oder nichts"

Belgium - - "Si le virus arrive ici, il se propagera comme un feu de forêt": les camps de Rohingyas à la merci du coronavirus