The European Union is dealing with an increasing number of complex, overlapping cross-border crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and Russia's invasion of Ukraine. According to the scientific and ethical recommendations given to the Commission today in Strasbourg, the Union has to improve how it prepares for and responds to crises.
An evidence review report, policy recommendations, and a detailed ethics statement have been prepared by the EU Scientific Advice Mechanism (SAM) and the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies (EGE) and have been jointly presented to Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education, and Youth, and Janez Lenarčič, Commissioner for Crisis Management.
Commissioner Gabriel said:
“Expert advice is pivotal in moments of crisis, as COVID-19 and climate change have shown. I welcome the contributions of the Scientific Advice Mechanism and the European Group on Ethics, whose collaborative work has become a pillar of our crisis response ever since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic”
Commissioner Lenarčič said:
“Europe is facing a changing risk landscape. Crises are growing in number, in severity and in frequency every year. The EU is determined to strengthen the European crisis management system in response to this trend. To do this effectively, we need to rely on scientific evidence, advice and recommendations. I wish to thank the Scientific Advice Mechanism and the European Group on Ethics for preparing this Scientific Opinion on Strategic Crisis Management. It will help shape and inform our work in humanitarian aid, civil protection and emergency relief.”
The Evidence Review report stresses that crises are changing in nature, transcending borders and sectors, and having cascading and overlapping consequences on society, the economy and the environment. They aggravate inequalities and disproportionately affect the most disadvantaged. Therefore the EU must reconsider traditional – often sectoral – approaches to risk and crisis management.
Based on this scientific evidence, the Chief Scientific Advisors passed over to the European Commission the following recommendations:
- The EU should plan and prepare for crises over the full timeline, from preparedness to response and recovery. Synergies between crisis mitigation measures should be considered
- The EU should strengthen synergies between European institutions as well as between European institutions and member states; the Emergency Response and Coordination Centre (ERCC) could play a larger role in facilitating the exchange of information and needs
- To strengthen the EU’s resilience, the Advisors urge for more scalable, fast-deployable and efficient EU financial mechanisms
- Decision-makers at all levels should also work closely with civil society and the private sector
According to the European Group on Ethics, values play an essential role in how crises are perceived and addressed because they determine the framing of the problems that crisis management is expected to solve and how the tools for doing so are chosen.
On this basis, the group formulated recommendations for policy makers and other stakeholders, which include, among others:
- Solidarity should be a guiding principle for strategic crisis management and solidaristic institutions should be strengthened at all levels
- Human dignity and solidarity should guide the allocation of scarce resources, also to avoid undue discrimination and ensure special consideration of disadvantaged people
- Governments have a duty to combat poverty and inequities, multipliers of the impact of crises
- The values upon which the decisions and recommendations of government agencies are based must be made clear and open to public scrutiny and appeal
The items above are only some of the key findings from the two reports and statement. For more information, please consult the links below.
The two advisory groups have previously collaborated in response to the pandemic, joining efforts also with Professor Peter Piot, special advisor to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on the response to COVID-19. Their work includes a “Joint statement on scientific advice to European policy makers during the COVID-19 pandemic” (06/2020) and a joint Scientific Opinion on “Improving pandemic preparedness and management”(11/2020).
Science Advice for Policy by European Academics (SAPEA)
The Consortium of European Science Academies SAPEA, synthesised the most recent knowledge on crisis management, from academia to practice and across many disciplines. Informed by this evidence, the Group of Chief Scientific Advisors published its policy recommendations, applicable to a broad range of threats and crises.
SAPEA is a consortium of academy networks. Across these networks, it brings together outstanding expertise from natural sciences, engineering and technology, medical, health, agricultural and social sciences, and the humanities. SAPEA draws on over a hundred academies, young academies and learned societies in more than 40 countries across Europe.
The Group of Chief Scientific Advisors (GCSA)
The GCSA contributes to the quality of EU legislation through the provision of independent scientific advice to the European Commission. The Advisors are seven eminent scientists, appointed in their personal capacities and who advise the Members of the European Commission on issues of public interest. The Advisors work closely with the Scientific Advice for Policy by European Academies (SAPEA) consortium, which gathers interdisciplinary expertise from over 100 academies and societies across Europe.
In recent years the GCSA provided advice on topics such as:
- Transforming the future of ageing (2020)
- Towards a sustainable food system (2020)
- Adaptation to health effects of climate change in Europe (2020)
- COVID-19, future pandemics and other crises in the global context (2020)
- Biodegradability of plastics in the open environment (2020)
- A systemic approach to the energy transition in Europe (2021)
- Cancer screening (2022)
A summary of the Advisors’ previous publications and their impact can be found in their February 2020 report, ‘Informing European Commission Policy Making with Scientific Evidence’.
The European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies (EGE)
The EGE is the independent, multi-disciplinary body appointed by the President of the European Commission, which advises on all aspects of Commission policies and legislation where ethical, societal and fundamental rights dimensions intersect with the development of science and new technologies. It was established in 1991 by President Jacques Delors and reports to the President, and to the College of Commissioners as a whole, under the direct responsibility of the Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth.
In recent years, the group provided advice on topics such as artificial intelligence (2018), the future of work (2018), COVID-19 and crises (2020 through to 2022), genome editing (March 2021), the role of values in policy-making (2021) and on Ukraine and in support of peace (March 2022).
GCSA Scientific Opinion “Strategic Crisis Management in the EU”
SAPEA Evidence Review Report “Strategic crisis management in the European Union”
EGE Statement “Values in times of crisis: Strategic crisis management in the EU”
- Publication date
- 22 November 2022
- Directorate-General for Research and Innovation