Coronavirus: €2.7 billion from the EU budget to support the EU healthcare sector
The European Commission proposed to activate the European Union’s Emergency Support Instrument on 2 April to directly support the healthcare systems of the EU countries in their fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Today, the Council gave its fast approval, so that the €2.7 billion instrument can immediately begin providing direct support where most needed. The instrument will be used together with other EU tools, for example the rescEU medical stockpile, which is in parallel being increased by €300 million in addition to the initially proposed allocation of €80 million. Commissioner Johannes Hahn, in charge of the budget, said: “The EU budget has always been the EU’s main solidarity tool to address crisis situations and swiftly assist those in need in Europe and beyond. Today, we are mobilising it again to the full support of those at the frontline– doctors, nurses, the sick and their families. This contribution will also be instrumental in tracking the disease in solidarity, making more testing available and supporting relevant medical research.” At a first stage, the Emergency Support Instrument for the healthcare sector will help fund urgent medical supply needs, such as masks and respirators, the transportation of medical equipment and patients in cross-border regions, the recruitment of additional healthcare workforce that can be deployed to hotspots across the Union, as well as the construction of mobile field hospitals. The Emergency Support Instrument enables the Commission to directly procure on behalf of Member States and focus the help where it is needed most; prioritisation and mobilisation will be done in close co-ordination with Member States. An internal Task Force has been set up to manage this initiative. In the medium- to long-term, ESI will enable the EU to support Member State mass testing efforts and any relevant medical research. In this way, the Commission will be providing a coordinated EU response throughout the crisis, from the current stage until the moment of exit and recovery. For all the budgetary means to be available, the Commission would also need the green light of the European Parliament.