This news update summarizes the latest developments and measures in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Last Friday, significant progress was booked on the final details of the €540 billion support package for the European economy. The ESM Board of Governors formally confirmed the €240 billion ESM support. In addition, EU ambassadors reached a political agreement on the EU’s short-time work scheme (SURE) worth €100 billion. The SURE instrument will enable Member States to request EU financial support to help finance the sudden and severe increases of national public expenditure. Economy Commissioner Gentiloni indicated that the final part of the support package, the EIB European Guarantee Fund, still needs some progress in order to become operational. This last part of the puzzle will trigger up to €200 billion of investments to stimulate the economic recovery in the EU.
The complete support package of €540 billion will have to be operational on 1 June, but the €240 billion ESM-support is operational and available to Member States as of today, providing favorable financing of 2% of each Eurozone Member State’s GDP without macroeconomic conditions attached. With the first economic measures ready for roll out, the Commission is working on the new proposal for the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 and a Recovery Fund, which is expected to be published on 27 May, delayed from the original date of publication of 20 May.
After a few months of delay due the COVID-19 outbreak, the Commission today published a new Biodiversity Strategy and a Farm to Fork Strategy. The two strategies are mutually reinforcing as they bring together nature, farmers, businesses, and consumers to jointly work towards a competitively sustainable Europe. In line with the European Green Deal, the Biodiversity Strategy aims at halting the loss of biodiversity in Europe, while the Farm to Fork Strategy aims to make the food production and supply chain sectors more sustainable.
- Bulgaria agreed to ease travel with Greece and Serbia as of 1 June;
- The Greek economy could shrink by 10% to 13% this year, according to Greek finance minister Christos Staikouras. This is worse than the expected 4.7% to 7.9% contraction Greece signaled to the Commission early May;
- The Netherlands announced it will further ease lockdown measures, as outlined in the exit strategy it presented two weeks ago;
- Poland decided its schools will stay closed until the summer holidays, which start end of June.
- Czech Republic ended its state of emergency after 66 days. If the spread of the virus increases again, local authorities should call local states of emergency;
- Greece lifted more restrictions with high-school students returning to class, shopping malls and outlets reopening and Greeks able to move freely on the mainland and the country’s two largest islands, Crete and Evia. The Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias added that he calls on Europeans to visit Greece this summer as authorities are preparing the country to welcome tourists safely;
- Italy will reopen its borders to European tourists as of 3 June, without a 14-day quarantine being obliged. Prime Minister Conte acknowledged these measures might lead to a rise in the contagion curve, but accepts it as the economic and social situation requires it;
- Portugal entered the second phase of its lockdown lifting plan today, with restaurants, cafés, larger shops and museums reopening.
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