Latest news on COVID-19 and the EU

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Yesterday, Commission president von der Leyen delivered a speech during the European Parliament’s plenary session on the financial aspects of the COVID-19 recovery package. The recovery package will consist of two parts. Firstly, a revised MFF proposal, which is expected to now be published on 20 May – although not a hard date. Secondly, and on top of the MFF, a Recovery Instrument, which will be funded through additional resources that the Commission can borrow from capital markets thanks to guarantees from Member States. This recovery instrument will include grants and has short-term objectives, as it focuses on the first years of recovery.

Funds from the Recovery Instrument will be used across three pillars where there is the greatest need and greatest potential. The bulk of the money will be spent in the first pillar, the short-term recovery and reconstruction of the EU economies that are hit hardest by the pandemic. The second pillar focuses on kick-starting the economy by boosting private investment in the green and digital transitions, through a reinforced InvestEU and the establishment of a new ‘Strategic Investment Facility’. The third pillar aims to strengthen the EU health care sector through existing funding programs and the establishment of a new, dedicated Health Program.

 Initiatives at EU level

  • The European Center for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC) and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) sent out draft safety guidelines to Member States on 13 May, aimed at allowing air travel resumption while keeping the risk of COVID-19 transmission low.

 National measures

  • Belgium is expected to take a decision on lifting borders checks next week. However, Interior Minister Pieter de Crem stated that easing border checks is a far-reaching measure and if relaxed, subject to certain conditions;
  • Greece announced that managed beaches can reopen from Saturday;
  • Irish PM Leo Varadkar stated that reopening schools and childcare facilities is amongst the safest things to do over the next couple of months. A decision on relaxing lockdown measures is expected tomorrow;
  • Italy adopted a €55 billion COVID-19 economic package. The decree temporarily freezes corporate tax for all companies with an annual turnover below €250 million, and grants non-repayable aid of up to €40,000 to small businesses.

Next steps

European Commission

  • 15/05: Executive Vice President Vestager will hold an informal video conference with the ministers responsible for industry and internal market;
  • 15/05: Commissioner Breton will hold an informal video conference with the ministers for industry;
  • The full agenda showing the Commissioner’s weekly activities.

Council of the EU

  • 15/05: Video conference of the Eurogroup (agenda);
  • 15/05: Video conference of the ministers of foreign affairs;
  • 15/05: Video conference of the ministers for industry and the internal market (agenda);
  • 19/05: Video conference of the ministers of economic and financial affairs (agenda).

European Parliament

  • 13/05-16/05: European Parliament Extraordinary Plenary (agenda);
  • 18/05: Committee on Civil Liberties Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) (agenda);
  • 18/05: Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) (agenda);
  • 18/05: Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO);
  • 18/05: Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI) (agenda).
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