How will the EU deal with its COVID-19 outbreak?
Updated 17:51, 05-Mar-2020

Editor's note: Eelco H. Dykstra, Doctor of Medicine, is the founder of the Daily Impact Emergency Management (DIEM) Network and a former member of the Netherlands National Council for the Environment and Infrastructure. Dykstra has 30 years of international emergency management experiences in a wide variety of settings, with proven ability to effectively deal with European, U.S., African and Asian approaches to emergency management systems and their respective stakeholders. He shares his views on countermeasures when Europe is seeing a rise in confirmed COVID-19 cases. Views expressed in the video are his own and not necessarily those of CGTN.

CGTN: European Commission earlier announced that a new funding of 232 million euros will be allocated to tackle COVID-19 globally. What is to be expected from the EU in this fight against COVID-19?

Eelco H. Dykstra: I would safely say that don't expect too much because the European Union has no executive mandate. To solve a crisis you need to have an executive mandate. You can't solve a crisis with a legislative mandate. It's like having 23 captains on a ship, which is quite nice when the sun is shining and a band is playing. But if something serious happens, you require what the military refers to as unified command. You need one captain on a ship in order to solve it. 

Right now, there's no European integrated approach because it falls back to individual member states, who each have to come up with their own plan. And you already see some European countries' approach is much different than others'. Most of the funding I think will go to policy and research, and a little to on-the-ground practical measures.

CGTN: How much do you think the funding will help in slowing the spread of COVID-19? How to make sure the funding will be utilized effectively?

Eelco H. Dykstra: That's indeed a very good question. When you look at the funding by the European Union in the past, the impact has been very limited. That's a concern. In terms of money spent, most of it goes into research. We have to wait and see. Maybe this time it will be different. But I rather would like to see that a large amount of money is spent on setting up a center to exchange Chinese experience with international clients and customers because the practical experience is with China right now on how to deal with this outbreak. 

The Europeans are just starting to face the outbreak. So, I think there's a lot that can be learned by the Europeans by directly accessing the Chinese experience, even when we only talk about individual member states. They can benefit from this as well.

CGTN: As Europe is seeing a surge in confirmed COVID-19 cases, what is the best thing the EU should do?

Eelco H. Dykstra: I think right now the only entity who has real on-the-ground concrete practical experience in how to contain the virus is China. You need an executive mandate. Modern crisis management consists of three elements that need to be taken together and seamlessly connected. Pre-impact risk management – you couple that with impact response management and then post-impact consequence management. One has to build a box around these three elements and manage that box then you're going somewhere. But you need an executive mandate for that as well.

I think the need is to call for an online exchange platform where individual, private, national and regional government entities can benefit from the Chinese experience – "lessons learned project." We're actually working on something like that. 

We would be quite willing to help facilitate this international exchange because this will not be the last outbreak. In the future, there might very well be outbreaks with a much more dangerous virus. This is now the opportunity to set up such a global exchange platform not only to benefit right now at the moment but to have something in place for the future because this kind of crisis requires global response, not a local or a national response.

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