The Covid-19 pandemic: Collective action and European public policy under stress

Mitja Kovac, Amira Elkanawati, Vita Gjikolli, Ann Sophie Vandenberghe

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4 Citations (Scopus)


The European continent faces an apocalyptic pandemic that poses mortal danger to millions of citizens. This paper seeks to address the role played by European public policy in addressing the Covid-19 pandemic. Currently, each Member State across Europe is applying its own measures to deal with the coronavirus; namely, decentralised decision-making that could trigger political tensions among the states. The paper argues that European public policy must change rapidly and fundamentally if these tensions are to be successfully managed; otherwise, such policy might simply cease to exist. Moreover, the known and notorious problem of collective action, information asymmetries, irrationality, negative externalities and the related free-riding phenomenon persistently are distorting the Member States’ combined efforts, resulting in deficient attempts to contain the spread of Covid-19. The paper also argues that the current unprecedented outbreak of this superspreading virus calls for a bigger EU-wide coordinated response. We argue that the Covid-19 pandemic is a good example of an area in which the central EU level holds a comparative advantage over lower levels of government. In addition, the paper offers several substantive insights into ways to improve the public policy response in the ‘war’ against Covid-19.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-59
Number of pages13
JournalCentral European Journal of Public Policy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2020

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