Activities of the EU during the COVID-19 pandemic
The European Union will continue its activities during the exceptional circumstances and will adapt its activities and decision-making as required by the situation. At their videoconference on Thursday 26 March, the Members of the European Council noted that combating the coronavirus pandemic and protecting EU citizens requires urgent, decisive, and comprehensive action at the EU, national, regional and local levels. This page provides information on the activities of the EU and on the preparation of EU affairs at the national level in exceptional circumstances.
Council of the EU
The Council’s activities will continue during the exceptional circumstances. The Council cancelled its official ministerial meetings for 30 days starting on 23 March 2020. The Permanent Representatives Committee (Coreper), made up of EU ambassadors from the Member States, will continue its work as usual. A few of the Council's working groups will meet to deal with essential EU issues.
The members of the European Council have been holding videoconferences. The President of the European Council may draw conclusions based on the discussion in his name. The members of the European Council may also agree on joint statements.
According to the current interpretation, the Council cannot formally convene via remote connection. For this reason, informal ministerial videoconferences will be held instead of ministerial meetings as appropriate. Formal decisions cannot be made during these videoconferences.
Any decisions will be adopted by written procedure of the Council. The rules on the use of the written procedure have been temporarily made more flexible. As a result, the decision to use the procedure does not require unanimity and can be made using the same voting rules as the decision on the EU matter itself.
In addition, ministers have arranged telephone and video conversations to update each other on the situation in their countries.
Croatia, which holds the Presidency of the Council of the EU until 1 July 2020, will hold its ministerial meetings via telephone for the time being.
The activities of the European Commission will continue during the exceptional circumstances. The Commission is coordinating the EU’s joint efforts to combat the coronavirus epidemic. It is working to strengthen the EU’s public health sector and alleviate the socioeconomic impact of the epidemic in the EU. The Commission is helping the EU Member States to coordinate their national efforts and providing impartial information on the spread of the virus and effective measures to curb it.
The Commission has set up a working group to support measures to combat the epidemic. The purpose of the group is to coordinate activities with the EU countries and its tasks include exchanging information, assessing needs and evaluating EU-wide activities.
The College of Commissioners is holding its meetings remotely. As of 16 March, Commission staff members other than those in positions of critical importance have been working remotely. The meetings are being arranged via video and other remote connections.
All public events held on Commission premises, including at the Finnish mission, have been cancelled until the end of May.
The European Parliament is continuing its work related to legislative, supervisory and budgetary powers during the exceptional circumstances. The Parliament is committed to dealing with matters related to the coronavirus as quickly as possible.
The calendar of plenary sessions has been specified for the next few months, and the extraordinary plenary sessions will be held in Brussels for the time being.
Members of the European Parliament have the opportunity to participate in plenary sessions and vote remotely. This is a temporary derogation by decision of the Speakers until 31 July. The votes are binding. Committee work will also continue through exceptional procedures.
Delegation visits and committee hearings are cancelled until further notice. Access to Parliament premises is restricted for all except Members of Parliament, Parliament employees and media representatives. Almost all Parliament employees are working remotely. All public events held at the Parliament’s offices, including the Finnish office, have been cancelled until at least 31 May.
Ministerial Committee on European Union Affairs of Finland
As usual, the Ministerial Committee on European Union Affairs decides on matters of political, economic and legal importance at its meetings or by written procedure.
Involvement of Parliament of Finland in the handling of EU affairs
The current exceptional circumstances do not affect the order in which EU affairs are discussed. In exceptional conditions, however, the importance of the timeliness and content of the statements submitted by the Government to Parliament is emphasised in relation to the formal aspects.