Latest intelligence on Covid-19 and the EU

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On 2 April, European Commission President von der Leyen presented the EU’s ‘Coronavirus Response’ initiative to mobilize every euro available in the EU budget to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. This initiative follows the first package of economic measures, including the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative, worth €37 billion, and the provided flexibility to Member States in terms of state aid and fiscal measures.

The most important aspect of the Corona Response initiative is the proposal for a regulation establishing a European instrument for temporary Support to mitigate Unemployment Risks in an Emergency (SURE). The SURE initiative mobilizes €100 billion in loans to Member States in order to ensure that they set up short-time work schemes keeping people employed and businesses running. This budget is made possible because of €25 billion of guarantees by Member States. To get an understanding of how SURE works in practice, please find the Commission’s factsheet here.

The second important aspect of the initiative is the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative Plus (CRII+) proposal. The CRII+ complements the earlier announced CRII by introducing extraordinary flexibility that allows all non-utilized support from the European Structural and Investment Funds to be mobilized. In practice, CRII+ allows for all financial resources left in the current Multi-annual Financial Framework 2014-2020 (MFF) to be utilized to battle COVID-19. Von der Leyen asked both co-legislators to act swiftly and approve these proposals as soon as possible.

Furthermore, von der Leyen stressed that the next MFF will be shaped in such a way that it is a crucial part of the EU’s recovery plan. The Commission is expected to publish a new proposal for the MFF in April with a view to conclude an agreement within two months.

Initiatives at EU level

  • Yesterday afternoon, the European Union Emergency Support Instrument for the healthcare sector was presented. The instrument foresees to support EU countries in their pressing needs in healthcare, may it be medical supplies or the construction of mobile field hospitals. For this initiative, the Commission mobilizes €3 billion, of which €7 billion through the Emergency Support Instrument and €300 million through the rescEU medical equipment capacity;
  • European Parliament President Sassoli and the political group leaders have decided to plan another extraordinary plenary session on 16 and 17 April in Brussels. The meeting will again allow for remote voting. During this plenary, the Parliament will vote on a resolution on EU coordinated action to fight COVID-19. Moreover, the Parliament will vote on other legislative and budgetary proposals proposed by the Commission. The Conference of Presidents has also made available extra space in the calendar for remote meetings for EP governing bodies, committees and political groups, as can be seen in the adjusted EP agenda 2020, also published yesterday;
  • Thirteen Member States have issued a joint statement to express their concerns about violations of principles of rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights in Hungary. The Member States stress that contingency measures in light of the COVID-19 outbreak need to be proportionate and temporary in nature. They argue that the Hungarian measures do not fulfil these criteria. In parallel, thirteen of Europe’s centre-right parties have asked European People’s Party Group leader Donald Tusk to expel Orbán’s Fidesz party from the party;
  • Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, has given a statement on the postponement of COP26 in Glasgow due to COVID-19. Timmermans stresses that the European Commission will continue its work on reaching climate neutrality by 2050.

 Next steps

 Important steps for next week

  • 07-04: Informal videoconference of the Eurogroup
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