On 23 March, the Council of the EU has agreed on a temporary derogation to its Rules of Procedure to ensure institutional continuity during the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision by the Council makes it possible to take decisions by written procedure. The temporary rules will apply for one month and can be continued in case of extraordinary circumstances. In line with the above-mentioned changes, several Council meetings will take place this week via videoconference. An overview of the Council meetings taking place this week can be found here. The European Council will also meet via videoconference, scheduled for Thursday 26 March at 15:00.
The European Parliament continues its activities under special circumstances. The extraordinary plenary is scheduled for Thursday 26 March. The European Parliament will vote first on the approval of the urgent procedure to enable voting on the proposals at stake: the proposal for the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative, the proposal to amend the regulation on the allocation of airport slots and the proposal to extend the EU Solidarity Fund. The final draft agenda of the one-day extraordinary plenary is available here. Members of European Parliament which are not in Brussels are encouraged to vote via email through the exchange of a ballot card.
Initiatives at EU level
- The European Commission triggered the ‘escape clause’ in the EU’s deficit rules to encourage public spending across Member States. According to Von der Leyen, Member States can spend ‘as much as they need’ on their economies to counter the negative impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, without being confronted with EU deficit rules;
- Von der Leyen announced that the European Commission issued practical advice on how to implement its Guidelines for border management, in order to ensure the free flow of goods across the EU during the current pandemic. Via the guidelines, the Commission requests Member States to designate all relevant internal border-crossing points on the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) as ‘green lane’ border crossings. Procedures at green lane border crossings should be minimised and streamlined to what is strictly necessary.
- Only 48 hours after adopting the State aid Temporary Framework, the European Commission has swiftly started to approve national support schemes for the economy in the COVID-19 outbreak:
- Denmark: a DKK 1 billion (approx. €130 million) Danish guarantee scheme for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs);
- France: two state aid schemes enabling public investment bank Bpifrance to provide state guarantee commercial loans and credit lines and a scheme to provide State guarantees to banks on portfolios of new loans for all types of companies. The French plan is expected to mobilize more than €300 billion of liquidity support;
- Germany: a loan program covering up to 90% of the risk for loans for companies of all sizes and a loan program in which the German promotional bank Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau participates together with private banks to provide larger loans as a consortium;
- Italy: a €50 million Italian aid scheme to support the production and supply of medical devices, such as ventilators, and personal protection equipment, such as masks, goggles, gowns, and safety suits;
- Portugal: four guarantee schemes for SMEs and midcaps affected by the Coronavirus outbreak, active in four different sectors: (i) tourism; (ii) restaurants (and other similar activities); (iii) extractive and Manufacturing industry; and (iv) travel agency activities, touristic animation, event organization (and similar activities). The four schemes have a total budget of €3 billion.
- All competition authorities in the European Competition Network (ECN) have issued a joint statement on how to apply the European competition rules during the crisis. The letter states that in the current circumstances, the ECN will not actively intervene against necessary and temporary measures put in place in order to avoid a shortage of supply. At the same time, ECN will not hesitate to take action against companies trying to take advantage of the current situation by cartelizing or abusing their market position.
Council of the EU / European Council
- Wednesday 25 March: informal Council meeting:
- Informal videoconference of Ministers responsible for Agriculture and Fisheries
- Thursday 26 March – Friday 27 March: European Council
- Friday 27 March: informal Council meeting:
- Informal videoconference of Ministers responsible for Cohesion/regional policy
- Wednesday 25 March: The College of Commissioners will meet to discuss actions on COVID-19.
- Thursday 26 March: extraordinary plenary session, with the following votes:
- 10:00-11:00: Votes on requests for urgent procedure (Rule 163; results at 12:30)
- 17:30-18:30: Votes on amendments (results at 20:00)
- 20:00-21:00: Final votes (results at 22:30)