The EU's Covid-19 response
The ECCT hosted a Premium Event lunch on the topic “The EU’s Covid-19 response - Actions to safeguard public health and support the economy” featuring guest speaker
Filip Grzegorzewski, Head of the European Economic and Trade Office in Taiwan.
In his introduction, the EETO head acknowledged that the coronavirus pandemic came as a shock to Europe that has severely tested everyone at the member state and central European level. While the initial response to the pandemic did not meet public expectations, this was not surprising given the fact that this was the first time that the EU has faced a crisis of this kind and also the limited authority and resources available to European institutions. In particular, healthcare is a national competence, meaning it is the responsibility of each individual member state to devise and implement its own crisis response plans.
Nevertheless, EU leaders are fully aware of the need for solidarity and a coordinated response and did all they could within their powers to assist. From the very beginning of the pandemic, the European Commission introduced full flexibility for funds and government spending to fight the pandemic. The European Central Bank also stepped in to help by launching its Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme (PEPP) scheme in March to buy an extra €750 billion of bonds this year in response to the coronavirus pandemic. In addition, the European Investment Bank set aside €200 billion to loan to SMEs.
Then, on 27 May, European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen unveiled the commission’s proposed recovery plan, called the Next Generation EU. The plan consists of extraordinary funding of €750 billion to be invested across three pillars: a new recovery and resilience facility of €560 billion, which will be allocated to member states with a mix of loans and grants (45/55%); a new Solvency Support Instrument with a budget to support private companies; and a third pillar, called “Addressing the lessons of the crisis”, that includes a new health programme, EU4Health, to strengthen health security and prepare for future health crises.
The EETO head made the point that while some of the Next Generation EU funds will be used to protect jobs, much will be targeted towards the EU’s future development needs. For example, since the issue of climate change is not going to go away, funds will be allocated to the types of programmes already set out in the Green Deal. This means spending more on things like renewable energy, such as offshore wind and hydrogen technologies.
The EETO head concluded that overcoming the healthcare and economic challenges of the pandemic is a marathon, not a sprint and that doing so successfully will require solidarity and joint action.