COVID-19: The European Commission steps up its response to the Coronavirus outbreak on all fronts
After participating in the EU leaders’ video conference yesterday, President von der Leyen announced several additional measures to step up the EU response to the Coronavirus outbreak on all fronts. President von der Leyen said: “The crisis we face because of Coronavirus has both a very significant human dimension, and a potentially major economic impact. It is therefore essential that we act decisively and collectively, to contain the spread of the virus and help patients, and to counter the economic fallout.” President von der Leyen also called Prime Minister Conte yesterday to express the EU’s solidarity with the Italian people, and will continue to discuss specific measures to support the country with the Italian authorities. At EU level, the Commission mobilised €140 million of public and private funding for promising research on vaccines, diagnosis and treatment. The Commission will also strengthen its coordination role and will liaise on a daily basis with national Health and Internal Affairs Ministers to discuss the necessary measures. In addition to this, we are taking stock of the available protective equipment and respiratory devices as well as their production and distribution capacity. To that effect, Commissioner Breton held a videoconference with high-level representatives of EU big manufacturing companies of Personal Protective Equipment who expressed their willingness to increase production in order to face the increasing demand. A follow-up videoconference will take place next week. On the economic front, the Commission will set up a Corona Response Investment Initiative aiming to channel €25 billion worth of investment to directly support the national health care systems, SMEs, labour markets and other vulnerable parts of the EU economy. It will use €7.5 billion of unspent structural funds and the release of some €17.5-€18 billion of further structural funding. The Commission also announced targeted legislation yesterday to temporarily alleviate airlines from their airport slot usage obligations under EU law. This measure will release pressure on the whole aviation industry and in particular on smaller airlines. A press release is available online with the full list of measures. A dedicated webpage on the EU actions to the Coronavirus outbreak is also available online.