Medicine Shortages - a Security Question? A Securitization Analysis of the Medicines Supply Chain Dependencies of the European Union in the Context of COVID-19

Jens Henning Breivik

Student thesis: Master thesis


Medicine shortages have increased exponentially in the European Union for more than a decade. Although most admit the causes are multifaceted, a consensus has developed contending that dependency on third countries, particularly China, in the production of raw and intermediate materials for medicines remains a central reason. This paper hypothesizes that the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in Europe, which highlighted the issue, has led to a change in the debate on third country dependency in this area. This study follows a narrative structure and investigates how the issue increasingly has been related to a question of security through Foucault’s approach to discourse analysis among actors in the European Union. It utilizes the securitization framework – known as the Copenhagen School – in its review of the discourse both before and after the outbreak in Europe. The analysis, which revisits data from the early 2000s until mid-July 2020, shows that the issue indeed has been sought securitized from different actors also before the coronavirus pandemic, but that it struggled to obtain security status in this period. Although developments took place already before the outbreak, the analysis confirms that substantial advancements in the discourse have happened since the virus’ outbreak in Europe. The paper concludes that the issue has been securitized successfully in an EU context, as the European Commission has adopted several measures to address third country dependence within the medicines supply chain.

EducationsMSc in International Business and Politics, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2020
Number of pages81
SupervisorsKristian Lau Nielsen