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Tackling the COVID-19 pandemic and starting Europe’s recovery

In 2021, the European Union redoubled its efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic. It worked to procure vaccines, to scale up their production, to strengthen international cooperation against the pandemic, and to lead Europe out of the economic crisis with NextGenerationEU, the EU's recovery plan.

4.2 billion doses of vaccines
secured thanks to the EU vaccines strategy
78.64%
of adult EU population is fully vaccinated
€46 billion
from ‘Team Europe’ for the EU global response

Last updated: 15 December 2021    Source: Vaccines producers and ECDC data

  • The EU digital COVID certificate has been a crucial element in Europe's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, facilitating free movement in the EU.
  • The Commission and the Council have so far approved 22 national recovery and resilience plans.
  • The European Commission launched the European Health Emergency preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) to prevent, detect, and rapidly respond to health emergencies.

Read more about the Commission’s actions on COVID-19

Delivering on the European Green Deal

With climate change being one of the biggest challenges of our times, the Commission stepped up its work to turn the European Green Deal into reality. The Commission put forward legislation that will improve people’s well-being and health and will bring economic prosperity, in a sustainable way for our planet. The European Green Deal is also our lifeline out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

€600 billion
dedicated investment funds via NextGenerationEU Recovery Plan
0 emissions
from new cars by 2035
40%
new renewable energy target for 2030

Source: European Green Deal targets

  • The EU’s commitment to reaching climate neutrality by 2050 is now enshrined in EU legislation, thanks to the European Climate Law.
  • The Commission adopted a package of proposals for the EU’s climate, energy, land and forest use, transport and taxation policies to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.
  • At COP26, the EU consolidated its role as a global leader in tackling climate change. The Commission supported the consensus reached by over 190 countries that gives us a chance to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Read more about the Commission’s actions on the Green Deal

A Europe fit for the digital age

Europe’s digital infrastructure has brought major advantages throughout the pandemic. However, the current crisis also showed the need to further accelerate the digital transformation.

20%
of each recovery and resilience plan to be spent on digital
€1 billion
to be invested annually in Artificial Intelligence (AI) from the Digital Europe and Horizon Europe programmes
at least 80%
of all adults to have basic digital skills by 2030

Source: 2030 targets set by the Digital Compass

  • The Commission proposed an ambitious reform of the digital space through the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act. These planned regulations guarantee people’s rights and safety, while boosting innovation.
  • The Commission presented a new vision for Europe’s digital transformation by 2030 and a governance framework to achieve these digital targets.
  • To boost Europe’s recovery, the Commission updated the EU’s industrial strategy with new measures that will greatly benefit small businesses and start-ups through a strengthened single market and reduced supply dependencies.

Read more about the Commission’s actions to make Europe more digital

An economy that works for people

With more than 2,000 measures taken since the beginning of the pandemic, the EU has spared no effort to cushion the economic impact of the global health crisis. The first-ever activation of the general escape clause of the Stability and Growth Pact has continued to apply throughout 2021, allowing Member States to take strong action to prop up their economies. In 2021, Member States also drew up their national recovery and resilience plans under NextGenerationEU.

15 million
fewer people at risk of poverty or social exclusion
78%
of the population aged 20-64 to be in employment
60%
of all adults to participate in training

Source: 2030 targets set by the European Pillar of Social Rights

  • The Commission has started implementing the biggest package ever financed under the EU budget, worth €2.018 trillion in current prices: the multiannual framework budgetthe EU’s 7-year budget, and the NextGenerationEU economic recovery plan.
  • NextGenerationEU can raise up to some additional €800 billion in current prices through bond issuance. By issuing up to €250 billion of green bonds, or 30% of the NextGenerationEU funds, the Commission will become the largest green bonds issuer in the world.
  • At the Porto Social Summit, EU leaders, social partners and civil-society representatives committed to further implementing the European Pillar of Social Rights, endorsing the Commission’s proposal to create a new set of measurable social targets to be reached by 2030.

Read more about the Commission’s actions on the economy

A stronger Europe in the post-COVID world

1.4 billion doses
of vaccines exported to the rest of the world
350 million doses
of vaccines donated to other countries
Up to €300 billion
in investments until 2027 through Global Gateway

Last updated: 15 December 2021

The Commission has worked continuously to bring different international players together, building new coalitions and initiatives to fight COVID-19 and launch a sustainable global recovery.

  • At the Global Health Summit, leaders of the G20, representing the world’s largest economies and the EU, committed to a series of actions to accelerate the end of the COVID-19 crisis worldwide and better prepare for future pandemics.
  • The Commission set out a new Global Gateway strategy to boost global infrastructure and build more resilient connections with the world.
  • The EU opened a new chapter in its partnership with the United Kingdom, after finalising the EU-UK trade and cooperation agreement in December 2020.

Read more about the Commission’s actions on global cooperation

Safeguarding equality and rule of law and protecting our citizens

87 million
Europeans to benefit from the Strategy for the rights of persons with disabilities
14.1%
the current gender pay gap that the EU wants to eradicate

Sources: EC’s Strategy for the rights of persons with disabilities & EC proposal for Equal pay for equal work

Read more about the Commission’s actions on safeguarding equality and rule of law

A new push for European democracy

320,999
people participating in Conference on the Future of Europe events
4,493
Conference on the Future of Europe events held so far

Last updated: 15 December 2021

  • The Conference on the Future of Europe, launched in 2021, answers citizens’ calls for a greater say in what the EU does and how it works for them.
  • The Commission proposed to strengthen the Code of Practice on Disinformation, the first of its kind worldwide. The proposals set out further guidance for operators of online and social media platforms to make the code a more effective tool for countering disinformation and instilling trust in online information.
  • The Commission proposed legislative action on political advertising, to increase transparency around the sponsors of paid content, as well as to introduce strict conditions on political targeting.

Read more about the Commission’s actions to protect European democracy

Key moments

  1. 25 November 2021

    Commission proposes to strengthen coordination of safe travel in the EU and update rules on travel from outside the EU.

  2. 23 November 2021

    EU proposes blacklisting of transport operators involved in facilitating the smuggling or trafficking of people.

  3. 19 November 2021

    Commission proposes a new list of Projects of Common Interest for a more integrated and resilient energy market.

  4. 18 November 2021
    • European Union launches a Green Team Europe Initiative in partnership with South East Asia.
    • Commission adopts a Communication on a competition policy fit for new challenges, which frames the important role of competition policy for Europe's path towards recovery, the green and digital transitions, and for a resilient Single Market.
  5. 17 November 2021

    The European Green Deal: Commission adopts new proposals to stop deforestation, innovate sustainable waste management and make soils healthy for people, nature and climate.

  6. 16 November 2021

    EU invests over €1 billion in innovative projects to decarbonise the economy.

  7. 13 November 2021

    COP26: EU helps deliver outcome to keep the Paris Agreement targets alive.

  8. 10 November 2021

    Commission approves contract with Valneva to secure a new potential vaccine.

  9. 9 November 2021

    COP26: Commission pledges €100 million to the Adaptation Fund.

  10. 2 November 2021
    • France, Germany, UK, US and EU launch ground-breaking International Just Energy Transition Partnership with South Africa.
    • Commission, Breakthrough Energy Catalyst and European Investment Bank advance partnership in climate technologies.
    • COP26: European Commission announces €1 billion pledge to protect world forests.
  11. 31 October 2021

    EU and US agree to start discussions on a Global Arrangement on Sustainable Steel and Aluminium and suspend steel and aluminium trade disputes.

  12. 27 October 2021

    Banking Package 2021: new EU rules to strengthen banks' resilience and better prepare for the future.

  13. 22 October 2021
    • EU Civil Protection celebrates 20th anniversary delivering assistance to people.
    • European Health Union: Commission establishes portfolio of 10 most promising treatments for COVID-19.
  14. 18 October 2021

    EU Digital COVID Certificate: first report shows that the EU certificate has set a global standard with over 40 countries connected to the system and 591 million certificates generated.

  15. 14 October 2021

    Commission kick-starts work to make 2022 the European Year of Youth.

  16. 13 October 2021
    • Energy prices: Commission presents a toolbox of measures to tackle exceptional situation and its impacts.
    • The Commission puts forward an approach for a stronger EU engagement for a peaceful, sustainable and prosperous Arctic.
    • The Commission proposes bespoke arrangements to respond to the difficulties that people in Northern Ireland have been experiencing because of Brexit, by further facilitating the movement of goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
  17. 12 October 2021
    • NextGenerationEU: European Commission successfully issues first green bond to finance the sustainable recovery.
    • Afghanistan: Commission announces €1 billion Afghan support package.
  18. 5 October 2021

    Commission presents first-ever EU Strategy on combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life.

  19. 29 September 2021
    • The Commission launches five new EU missions, aiming to tackle big challenges in health, climate and the environment, and to achieve ambitious and inspiring goals in these areas.
    • The first inaugural meeting of the EU-US Trade and Technology Council (TTC) takes place.
  20. 23 September 2021

    Pulling the plug on consumer frustration and e-waste: Commission proposes a common charger for electronic devices.

  21. 22 September 2021

    United States and European Commission launch the joint COVID-19 Manufacturing and Supply Chain Taskforce.

  22. 16 September 2021
    • The Commission launches the European Health Emergency preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) to prevent, detect, and rapidly respond to health emergencies.
    • The Commission presents today its first-ever Recommendation to strengthen the safety of journalists and other media professionals.
    • EU Strategy for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific is adopted.
  23. 15 September 2021
    • Commission proposes a Path to the Digital Decade to deliver the EU's digital transformation by 2030.
    • In her SOTEU address, President von der Leyen announces 200 million additional vaccine doses for low and middle income countries, funded by the EU budget as part of Team Europe sharing efforts.
  24. 4 August 2021

    Commission approves new contract for a potential COVID-19 vaccine with Novavax.

  25. 20 July 2021
    • Beating financial crime: the Commission overhauls anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism rules.
    • 2021 Rule of Law: EU report shows positive developments in Member States but also points to serious concerns.
  26. 16 July 2021

    The new EU forest strategy aims to ensure healthy and resilient forests that contribute significantly to biodiversity and climate goals.

  27. 14 July 2021

    The Commission adopts a package of proposals to make the EU’s climate, energy, land use, transport and taxation policies fit for reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.

  28. 6 July 2021

    The Commission adopts the European Green Bond Standard proposal creating a high-quality voluntary standard for bonds financing sustainable investment.

  29. 1 July 2021

    EU Digital COVID Certificate enters into application in the EU.

  30. 30 June 2021

    The Commission puts forward a long-term vision for the EU's rural areas, identifying the challenges and concerns that they are facing, as well as highlighting some of the most promising opportunities that are available to these regions.

  31. 15 June 2021
    • At the Summit in Brussels, the EU and US leaders commit to ending the COVID-19 pandemic and driving forward the global recovery. They also launch the Transatlantic Trade and Technology Council.
    • The Commission raises €20 billion on financial markets in its first NextGenerationEU transaction, via a 10-year bond.
  32. 3 June 2021

    The Commission proposes a framework for a trusted and secure European digital identity that will be available to all EU citizens, residents and businesses.

  33. 2 June 2021

    The Commission presents a new strategy to make the Schengen area – the largest free travel area in the world – stronger and more resilient.

  34. 1 June 2021
    • The launch of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, a new chapter in fighting cross-border crime.
    • EU Digital COVID Certificate: EU Gateway goes live with seven countries one month ahead of deadline.
  35. 31 May 2021
    • The own-resources decision is ratified by all Member States, enabling the Commission to start borrowing to finance the recovery under NextGenerationEU.
    • Circular economy: Commission provides guidance for harmonised application of Single-Use Plastic rules and advances on monitoring of fishing gear.
    • The Commission proposes update to coordinated travel measures ahead of the summer.
  36. 28 May 2021

    The Commission presents guidance to strengthen the Code of Practice on Disinformation, the first such tool worldwide.

  37. 26 May 2021

    The Commission presents guidance to strengthen the Code of Practice on Disinformation, the first such tool worldwide.

  38. 21 May
    • At the Global Health Summit  G20 leaders commit to a series of actions to accelerate the end of the COVID-19 crisis everywhere and to better prepare for future pandemics.
    • Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announces a €1 billion Team Europe initiative on manufacturing and access to vaccines, medicines and health technologies in Africa.
  39. 20 May 2021
    • EU Member States agree to reopen to vaccinated travellers from outside the EU.
    • The Commission signs a third contract with the pharmaceutical companies BioNTech and Pfizer, reserving an additional 1.8 billion doses of their vaccine on behalf of all EU Member States between the end of 2021 and 2023.
  40. 18 May 2021

    A communication on business taxation for the 21st century is adopted to promote a robust, efficient and fair business tax system in the EU.

  41. 17 May 2021

    The European Green Deal: the Commission proposes a sustainable blue economy in the EU for industries and sectors connected to oceans, seas and coasts.

  42. 15 May 2021

    At the Summit on Financing African Economies, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announces a Team Europe initiative in support of Africa’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

  43. 12 May 2021

    To steer the EU towards the 2050 goal of a healthy planet for healthy people, the Commission adopts the EU action plan ‘Towards zero pollution for air, water and soil’.

  44. 9 May 2021

    On Europe Day 2021, the inaugural event of the Conference on the Future of Europe takes place in Strasbourg.

  45. 8 May 2021

    At the EU–India Leaders’ Meeting , the EU and India conclude a comprehensive connectivity partnership to  support resilient and sustainable connectivity, both in India and in third countries and regions.

  46. 7-8 May 2021

    The EU institutions, the European social partners and civil-society organisations pledge to do their utmost to build a more inclusive, more social Europe at the Social Summit in Porto.

  47. 5 May 2021
    • The Commission proposes a new instrument to effectively tackle foreign subsidies that cause distortions and harm the level playing field in the Single Market.
    • The EU’s industrial strategy is updated to ensure that Europe’s industrial ambition takes full account of the new circumstances following the COVID-19 crisis and helps drive the transformation to a more sustainable, digital, resilient and globally competitive economy.
  48. 21 April 2021
    • Sustainable finance and EU taxonomy: the Commission takes further steps to channel money towards sustainable activities.
    • The Commission proposes new rules and actions for excellence and trust in artificial intelligence, aiming to turn the EU into the global hub for trustworthy artificial intelligence.
  49. 15 April 2021

    The new partnership agreement between the EU and members of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States sets out the framework for political, economic and sectorial cooperation for the next 20 years.

  50. 14 April 2021

    To disrupt cross-border criminal organisations, the Commission presents an EU strategy to tackle organised crime, together with a new strategy on combating trafficking in human beings, to help prevent crime, bring traffickers to justice and empower victims.

  51. 25 March 2021

    The European Green Deal: the Commission presents an action plan to boost organic production.

  52. 24 March 2021

    The EU sets out a new comprehensive policy framework to ensure that all children’s rights are protected and proposes to establish a European Child Guarantee.

  53. 18 March 2021

    The European Innovation Council is launched to help turn scientific ideas into breakthrough innovations, following a successful pilot phase.

  54. 17 March 2021

    The Commission proposes the creation of a digital certificate to facilitate safe and free movement within the EU during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  55. 11 March 2021

    The fourth safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine is authorised for use in the EU.

  56. 10 March 2021

    European Parliament President, David Sassoli, Prime Minister of Portugal António Costa, on behalf of the Presidency of the Council, and Commission President von der Leyen sign the Joint Declaration on the Conference on the Future of Europe.

  57. 9 March 2021

    Europe’s Digital Decade: the Commission sets course towards a digitally empowered Europe by 2030.

  58. 4 March 2021
    • European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan sets out an ambition for a strong social Europe.
    • Pay transparency: the Commission presents a proposal on pay transparency to ensure that women and men in the EU get equal pay for equal work.
  59. 3 March 2021

    A Union of equality: the Commission presents its 2021–2030 strategy for the rights of persons with disabilities, to ensure their full participation in society.

  60. 19 February 2021

    At the G7 Summit, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announces the doubling of the EU’s contribution to COVAX, the world’s facility for universal access to vaccines, from EUR 500 million to EUR 1 billion.

  61. 18 February 2021

    The Commission sets out an open, sustainable and assertive EU trade policy for the coming years.

  62. 17 February 2021
    • A new strategy is presented to strengthen the EU’s contribution to rules-based multilateralism.
    • To prepare Europe for the threat of new variants, the Commission proposes a new bio-defence preparedness plan, the HERA incubator, and the creation of the Task Force for Industrial Scale-up of COVID-19 vaccines.
  63. 10 February 2021

    The European Parliament confirms the political agreement reached on the Recovery and Resilience Facility, the key instrument at the heart of NextGenerationEU.

  64. 9 February 2021

    The EU proposes a new agenda for the Mediterranean, to strengthen the strategic partnership with its Southern Neighbourhood partners.

  65. 29 January 2021
    • The Commission authorises the third safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19.
    • The Commission puts in place a transparency and authorisation mechanism for the export of COVID-19 vaccines.
  66. 18 January 2021

    The Commission launches the design phase of the ‘New European Bauhaus’ initiative, aiming to combine design, sustainability and investment to help deliver the European Green Deal.

  67. 6 January 2021

    The second safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19 is authorised.

  68. 27 December 2020

    The first Europeans are vaccinated against COVID-19.

  69. 24 December 2020

    Commission reaches agreement with UK on terms of future relationship with EU.

  70. 21 December 2020

    The Commission authorises the first safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19.

  71. 17 December 2020

    The EU’s long-term budget for 2021– 2027, amounting to €1.211 trillion in current prices, is adopted in the Council.

  72. 15 December 2020

    The Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act: an ambitious reform of the digital space is proposed, along with a comprehensive set of new rules for all digital services.

  73. 10 December 2020

    The European Green Deal: a proposal is made for a regulation on sustainable batteries for a circular and climate-neutral economy.

  74. 3 December 2020

    The Commission presents a European democracy action plan to empower citizens and build more-resilient democracies across the EU.

  75. 2 December 2020

    EU–US relations: the EU proposes a new, forward-looking transatlantic agenda for global cooperation.