EU leaders urge for crisis exit strategy

At their third videoconference they debated on the EU actions in response to the Covid-19 outbreak

After more than six hours discussions during the informal videoconference summit on Thursday, EU leaders produced a joint statement on the EU actions in response to the Covid-19 outbreak and eyed for exit strategy and post-crisis recovery plan.

Saying that pandemic constitutes an unprecedented challenge for Europe and the whole world, the members of the European Council defined that it requires urgent, decisive, and comprehensive action at the EU, national, regional and local levels. “We will do everything that is necessary to protect our citizens and overcome the crisis, while preserving our European values and way of life”, the text reads.

Heads of state and government put main focus on the most pressing issues, namely providing masks, respirators and other necessary medical equipment, promoting research, including of vaccines, tackling socio-economic consequences of the crisis and helping citizens still stranded in third countries.

Acknowledging the gravity of the socio-economic consequences of the virus crisis, they backed the resolute action taken by the ECB to ensure supportive financing conditions in all euro area countries with its Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme.

As a major step forward they defined the Commission's temporary framework for state aid measures to support the economy in the current outbreak  and the  unprecedented use of the general escape clause under the Stability and Growth Pact.

The EP adopted on the same day the Commission proposal on Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative, which will make €37bn from the Cohesion funds available to EU countries to address the consequences of the crisis and on a legislative proposal to extend the scope of the EU Solidarity Fund to cover public health emergencies.

The idea of the leaders of 9 member states, including France, Italy and Spain, on issuing so called ‘coronabonds’ to support the troubled economies wass expectedly met with resistance from Germany and the Netherlands, which oppose such common debt instrument.

Tonight we had a very strong political debate and on many topics we are on the same page, said at a virtual press conference after the videoconference Charles Michel, President of the European Council. Asked whether the ‘coronabonds’ topic was discussed, he replied that all different possibilities were on the table in order to face the challenges at the economic level. We are ready to do everything we can to find the right solution he said adding that it was decided within two weeks Eurogroup to come up with new proposals.

Talking for the exit strategy that was discussed by leaders, EC President Ursula von der Leyen stated that such strategy should be based on a science-based protocol, proposing when and how to move away from, for example, the social distancing measures. We will be working on this protocol with scientists and experts and we will work together on a recovery strategy. This should allow our economy to kind of kick-start again when the right moment has come, because we should not forget, we have healthy companies and those have to bridge the gap to the time when the economy is picking up again, the orders come in again, they have to hibernate until then, she said.

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