The EU will set up a 37 billion euros response investment initiative to grant support to the healthcare sector, to the labour market and to support SMEs from all affected sectors of the members states due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Friday.
Announcing European measures to counter the economic impact of the coronavirus, von der Leyen said the EU would do whatever was necessary to support the Europeans and the European economy.
During her speech she said that the EU budget will deploy its existing instruments to support small and medium enterprises with liquidity, complementing thus the measures taken at national level.
“To give you some examples, the European Investment Fund will guarantee for example 8 billion euros in loans for 100,000 SMEs and small mid-caps,” she said.
Most affected sectors: Tourism, transport and retail
President von der Leyen encouraged Member States to take all the necessary measures to support the most affected sectors – for example tourism, transport or retail.
“We must work together to ensure that [this shock] is as short and as limited as possible, and that it does not create permanent damage to our economies”, she said.
Taking under consideration the blow the European aviation industry has received, the Commission has also proposed targeted legislation to temporarily alleviate airlines from the “use-it-or-lose-it” rule – whereby air carriers must use at least 80 percent of their airports slots within a given period in order to keep them within the corresponding period of the next year.
The Commission is also liaising with Member States, international authorities and key EU professional associations to monitor the impact of the crisis on the tourism sector and coordinate support measures.
“I am convinced that the European Union can withstand this shock. But each Member State needs to live up to its full responsibility. And the European Union as a whole needs to be determined, coordinated and united,” the president of the Commission said.
Referring to travel bans and controls being put in place in a number of Member States, von der Leyen said that certain controls may be justified.
“But general travel bans are not seen as being the most effective by the World Health Organisation. Moreover, they have a strong social and economic impact. They disrupt people’s lives and business across the borders. In other words, any measure that is taken must be proportionate.”