Latest intelligence on the Coronavirus in the EU

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Following the European Parliament’s extraordinary plenary session and the heated European Council (EUCO) meeting on Thursday night, solidarity seems to be the key word in Brussels these days. Whilst Commission President Von der Leyen called in the European Parliament for an ‘all for one’ spirit in Europe, rather than an ‘only for me’ response, EU leaders could not agree on an uniform approach regarding the use of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) and Eurobonds. European Council President Charles Michel proposed to reconvene in two weeks, during which the EUCO will consider new proposals from Eurozone finance ministers.

Meanwhile, the EU leaders commissioned the EU’s executive with the task of preparing a comprehensive exit strategy for a post-corona period. The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, and the ECB will also be involved in the drafting of a roadmap and subsequent Action Plan. According to Von der Leyen, the strategy will be developed by scientists and experts, following a science-based protocol. It is expected that multiple DG’s will be involved in the writing process. The strategy will integrate both green and digital aspects and will entail a recovery strategy to kick-start the European economy once COVID-19 is under control.

Various political groups in the European Parliament have called for an additional extraordinary plenary session on 16 April to pass new legislative proposals by the Commission. It is expected that the European Parliament will then also vote on a resolution on the COVID-19 situation. As for the parliamentary committees, some extraordinary committee meetings are planned for next week. The focus is very much still on the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent measures. It is yet unclear when the legislative work will be picked up again.

Initiatives at EU level

  • The European Council discussed possible extra instruments to combat the economic consequences of COVID-19, such as the deployment of the European Stability Mechanism and the introduction of so-called corona bonds. However, EU leaders failed to agree on these topics that will now be a topic for discussion during the next Eurogroup meeting. Eurogroup President Mario Centeno will convene the eurozone finance ministers next week to continue the work on financial solutions to the COVID-19 crisis. Despite the disagreements, the European Council managed to agree on a joint statement without any surprises;
  • During yesterday’s one-day plenary in Brussels, the European Parliament adopted, with an overwhelming majority, the three proposals of the European Commission for the allocation of slots at airports (686 in favour, 0 against), the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative (683 in favour, 4 against) and the financial assistance to Member States and accession countries through an extension of the EU Solidarity Fund (671 in favour, 14 against). The Council already approved the contingency initiatives of the European Commission last week;
  • Yesterday evening, the European Commission issued a guidance to ensure essential freight keeps moving by air. The Commission calls on Member States to support air cargo operations during the COVID-19 crisis. The guidance recommends operational and organizational steps to keep essential transport flows moving;
  • The European Commission has boosted the budget for repatriation flights and rescEU stockpile. The Commission has made €75 million available from the EU budget to Member States.

National measures

  • The UK’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has tested positive for the Coronavirus;
  • British Business Minister Alok Sharma told Sky News this morning that he doesn’t think the U.K. government is “crashing the economy.” He was defending the huge packages to safeguard businesses and workers announced by Britain’s ruling Conservative Party over the past week;
  • The German government has agreed on a ‘Freight Transport Agreement’ to ensure food supply chains in the country;
  • Hungary announcednew restrictions, starting tomorrow and until April 11, Hungarians will only be allowed to leave their homes for work or basic necessities;
  • The Maltese Prime Minister has announced new national measures, as Maltese police will have the right to intervene if they see groups of more than five people, and make sure they leave a 2-metre gap;
  • As of March 27, Poland will apply a two-week quarantine for workers who worked in a different country and crossed the border frequently, the ministry of interior has announced.

Next week

European Parliament

  • 30-03: extraordinary remote meeting DEVE Committee;
  • 02-04: extraordinary remote meeting LIBE Committee;
  • 02-04: extraordinary remote meeting AFET Committee;
  • 02-04: extraordinary remote meeting IMCO Committee;
  • 02-04: extraordinary remote meeting PETI Committee.

European Commission

  • 30-03: Maroš Šefčovičtogether with Michael Gove (Minister for the Cabinet Office of the United Kingdom), launches via teleconference the work of the EU-UK Joint Committee under the Withdrawal Agreement.

Council of the EU

  • 03-04: Informal Justice and Home Affairs Interior Ministers’ videoconference.

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