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Video conference of the European Council: main results

30/03/2020 - 09:43
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On 26 March, the members of the European Council followed up, by video conference, on the EU's response to the COVID-19 outbreak. They also addressed EU enlargement, the earthquake in Croatia and the situation at the EU's external borders.

On the COVID-19 outbreak, leaders agreed to continue to work along the following five strands:

  • limiting the spread of the virus;
  • providing medical equipment, with a particular focus on masks and respirators;
  • promoting research, including research into a vaccine;
  • tackling socio-economic consequences;
  • helping citizens stranded in third countries.

"The COVID-19 pandemic constitutes an unprecedented challenge for Europe and the whole world. It requires urgent, decisive, and comprehensive action at the EU, national, regional and local levels. We will do everything that is necessary to protect our citizens and overcome the crisis," reads the joint statement of the members of the European Council issued after the video conference.

Limiting the spread of the virus

All member states have taken decisive action to contain and slow down the spread of the virus.

The control of the EU's external borders has been reinforced by applying a coordinated temporary restriction of non-essential travel to the EU. Leaders will monitor the situation and decide whether or not to prolong these measures.

Leaders also agreed to ensure smooth border management for persons and goods. They will, for instance, urgently address the remaining problems concerning EU citizens blocked at internal EU borders and prevented from returning to their home countries. Leaders also agreed to counter disinformation with transparent, timely and fact-based communication on their actions.

Providing medical equipment

Ensuring urgent and adequate provision of medical equipment throughout the EU is the most acute priority. Leaders called on the Commission to continue and accelerate its efforts to help in this respect.

Leaders asked the Commission to explore ways to speed up procedures concerning joint procurement initiatives for personal protective equipment, ventilators and testing supplies.

The Commission will increase the initial budget for the strategic rescEU stockpile of medical equipment, including for intensive care, and vaccines and therapeutics.

The decision on the authorisation for export of personal protective equipment should lead to the lifting of all forms of internal bans or restrictions.

In the light of the WHO recommendations, it is a matter of urgency to increase testing capacities. Member states will report to the Commission on the situation.

Promoting research

140 million euro have already been mobilised for 17 projects, including on vaccines.

"There is an urgent need to share scientific information and to collaborate both within the EU and worldwide on the challenge of developing a vaccine in the shortest possible time, and to make it available to all those in need, without any geographical barriers," says the joint statement.

Leaders welcomed the initiatives taken by the Commission, the European Innovation Council and the European Investment Bank (EIB) Group to provide financial support for the clinical and public health response to the COVID-19 disease.

Tackling socio-economic consequences

Leaders supported the resolute action taken by the European Central Bank to ensure supportive financing conditions in all euro area countries.

Leaders stressed that member states had taken extensive action to support their economies and alleviate social and employment problems.

"The Commission's Temporary Framework for state aid measures to support the economy in the current COVID-19 outbreak constitutes a major step forward. The same applies to the unprecedented use of the general escape clause under the Stability and Growth Pact," reads the statement.

The Commission proposal for a Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative will provide 37 billion euro of investment under cohesion policy to address the consequences of the crisis. With the proposed amendment to the EU Solidarity Fund, that fund can also be used for public health emergency situations such as the COVID-19 outbreak.

Leaders also commended the EIB Group's contribution in mobilising resources for bank guarantees to and investment in European companies, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises, including through the use of the EU budget.

Helping citizens stranded in third countries

Leaders will further step up their efforts to ensure that EU citizens stranded in third countries who want to go home can do so. Member states will closely coordinate with the Commission and the Consular Task Force, set up by the EEAS. The Commission will put forward an addendum to the border management guidelines to facilitate transit arrangements for repatriated EU citizens.

Lessons from the crisis

Concluding, leaders agreed that, while the urgency is now on fighting the pandemic, the EU should also start to prepare the measures necessary to get back to a normal functioning of European societies and economies. They also invited the Commission to make proposals on an improved crisis management system.

 

More Information:

Joint statement of the members of the European Council, 26 March 2020

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