With €500bn committed to fighting virus, EU leaders divided over €1.5tn relief package

Opposition to such a major debt sharing deal was led by Germany, Austria and Holland
With €500bn committed to fighting virus, EU leaders divided over €1.5tn relief package

European leaders remained divided over the need for a significant EU-wide response to the Covid-19 crisis, and failed to approve a major €1.5tn rescue package demanded by Spain.

Leaders endorsed the package recently agreed by the Eurogroup - worth up to €500bn - and asked that it be made operational by June 1.

Opposition to such a major debt sharing deal was led by Germany, Austria and Holland who are reluctant to assume responsibility for less fiscally prudent countries as they see it.

On the call, the leaders also welcomed the Commission’s intention to undertake a sector-by-sector analysis on the economic impact of the crisis so as to better target supports necessary for recovery.

During a conference call of EU leaders on Thursday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was among those calling for a swift and ambitious EU response.

He welcomed the Commission’s intention to undertake a sector-by-sector analysis, and highlighted acute difficulties in agriculture resulting from a collapse in exports and prices.

According to a government statement, the Taoiseach stressed the need for urgent financial support for farmers under the provisions of the CAP. He also called for a plan to be developed to ensure EU states have public health controls at airports before business and tourist travel resumes and so that it can.

Mr Varadkar also spoke of the need for the EU to scale up its capacity to produce medical equipment and create stockpiles in advance of a possible second wave of the pandemic.

Leaders also discussed the urgent need for a Recovery Fund commensurate to the scale of the challenge. The Commission was asked to undertake further detailed work on this, including on how it might be linked to the Union’s budget, the MFF.

EU leaders must work together to help countries recover from the coronavirus pandemic, the head of the European Parliament has warned.

Speaking to reporters after giving a speech to the bloc's 27 leaders at the start of their video-conference summit, European Parliament President David Sassoli said: "we are extremely concerned because we can see a downward spiral, and we are going to need every instrument available".

Referring to the massive US aid package in 1948 that helped Europe rebuild after the Second World War, Mr Sassoli said that "we've all called for this new Marshall Plan for Europe, but with a major difference of course.

The funds will not be coming from abroad this time, but rather from European countries and economies.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said the coronavirus pandemic is “still at the beginning” and parts of Germany may be rushing their exit from lockdown, as divided EU leaders held a video conference to try to agree a desperately needed Europe-wide recovery fund.

Worried that Germans were relaxing physical distancing efforts amid the reopening of smaller shops this week, the chancellor said some of Germany’s 16 states were moving too fast and the country remained “on the thinnest ice” despite its early achievements.

Germany has the fifth-highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the world, but has managed to keep its death toll down to just over 5,000, a far lower tally than in many other countries, mainly through early and extensive testing.

“It is precisely because the figures give rise to hope that I feel obliged to say that this interim result is fragile,” Merkel told parliament.

We are still far from out of the woods. We are not in the final phase of the pandemic, but still at the beginning.

Meanwhile, European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC) Director Andrea Ammon said the lifting measures too quickly, without appropriate monitoring and health systems capacity in place, may cause sudden resurgence of sustained community transmission.

Through its latest risk assessment, ECDC supports the implementation of The Joint European Roadmap towards a careful lifting of some COVID-19 containment measures by providing a set of public health objectives, epidemiological criteria, indicators and considerations regarding the various measures.”

She said the Covid-19 pandemic is posing an unprecedented threat to the EU/EEA countries and the UK, which have been experiencing widespread transmission of the virus in the community for several weeks.

“Stay-at-home policies, jointly with other community and physical distancing measures such as the cancellation of mass gatherings, closure of educational institutions and public spaces have collectively reduced transmission and incidence in the EU/EEA and the UK overall.

"There is now significant interest in phasing out these measures, as they are highly disruptive to society,” she added.

More in this section

Puzzles logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day. PS ... We would love to hear your feedback on the section right HERE.

Let Me Tell You

Let Me Tell You is a new bespoke podcast series from 

Logo IE

Hosts Daniel McConnell and Paul Hosford take a look back at some of the most dramatic moments in recent Irish political history from the unique perspective of one of the key players involved.

Bespoke political podcast series from

Logo IE
Execution Time: 0.251 s