The current pandemic response has revealed serious obstacles to concerted European Union action. Many European countries responded late to the disease outbreak, and going forward, several changes are needed. With treaties prohibiting ‘interference’ with member States’ autonomy in operation of their own health systems, the crisis has laid bare the limited competencies in health that member States have been willing to give their European institutions . Additionally, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) “has limited remit beyond the borders of the European Economic Area (EEA)” and there are legal barriers to sharing public health data with countries, such as Switzerland, that have decided to remain outside the EU’s legal framework [13,14]. Going forward, the role of the ECDC must be extended and enhanced with more funding for research and development (R&D) and prevention efforts so that it can provide truly European (and not just EEA) coordinated disease responses, working closely with the European Regional Office of WHO. COVID-19 will have major impacts on all European economies and the European Central Bank (ECB) will need to play a new role that goes beyond its traditional jurisdiction.
Yet the EU is only one regional bloc. Others, such as ASEAN, CARICOM, and MERCOSUR are, to varying degrees, increasing their role in health. Given the obvious economic impact of a pandemic, this will have to accelerate.