Guest Editorial to the Symposium on European Union Governance of Health Crisis and Disaster Management: Key Norms and Values, Concepts and Techniques

Mark L. Flear, Anniek De Ruijter

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The genesis of this symposium lay in a simple observation: there is a fast developing and growing infrastructure for health crisis and disaster management at the European level of governance.1 This infrastructure is formed by a number of key organisations, especially the European Union (EU), which often works with the World Health Organisation (that is, WHO Europe), and to a lesser extent the Council of Europe. Since the early 2000s, the European level has been increasingly involved in most – if not all – of the key health crises and disasters threatening to impact within Europe. Preparedness planning for terrorist attacks and pandemics provides perhaps the most obvious and recurrent example. There is also the ongoing migration crisis, affecting the southern fringes of Europe in particular. Volcanic eruptions have grounded air travel for fear of lost lives from planes falling from the sky. And further back, in the 1990s, BSE/CJD2 led to fears of an impact on human health as a result of farming techniques for cows. The role of the European level, and the EU in particular, is becoming increasingly apparent, and is almost part of the everyday.

The crisis and disaster management literature is widening understanding of this area. Nevertheless, there is still surprisingly little focus on the European space for governance.3 Much of the attention appears to remain on the WHO – the EU seldom enters the frame for discussion. Nevertheless, and by contrast, within EU legal scholarship there is a growing appreciation of the importance of EU law and governance to health crisis and disaster management.4 This is not surprising, given EU governance in this, and indeed other areas, is usually predicated on law.5 This symposium is the first of its kind and is the product of an event held at the University of Amsterdam on 6 and 7 December 2018. The symposium examines EU governance of health crisis and disaster management, and identifies and reflects on some of its constitutive elements of governance: its key norms and values, concepts, and techniques for implementation.

By looking at these elements of governance, the aim of the symposium as a whole is to begin to answer a number of key questions: Is there a distinctive character to EU governance of health crisis and disaster management? What challenges do responses to health crises and disasters pose for EU fundamental principles of law, in particular the rule of law, and how does this impact on the constitutional order? What are the epistemic foundations for EU governance, both at the EU level and as EU-level norms and instruments are implemented at Member State level? How has EU governance been enabled by technological developments in the area of data gathering, interpretation and use?

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)605-609
Number of pages5
JournalEuropean Journal of Risk Regulation
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jan 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety Research
  • Law


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