European Union institutions responses

Immediately after the outbreak of COVID-19, EU institutions adopted measures to overcome the economic downturn it will bring. These are mostly related to providing access to health supplies, liquidity to companies, and reliable information to the population. Please find below a recent compilation of measures that may serve you as regional economic development practitioner to provide support to stakeholders in your territory. 

Commission approves French “umbrella” scheme

The European Commission has approved a €5 billion French “umbrella” scheme to encourage research and development, testing and upscaling of infrastructure, and production of coronavirus-related products. The scheme aims to address medical R&D concerning vaccines, medicaments, hospital and medical equipment, and protective clothing and equipment, among others. The initiative will also contribute to speeding up the construction of production facilities for these products, as well as the provision of necessary raw materials and ingredients. More information.

Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative (CRII)

The European Commission has proposed a Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative to use cohesion policy in order to respond flexibly to the rapidly emerging needs in the most exposed sectors, such as healthcare, SMEs and labour markets, as well as to help the most affected territories in Member States. To this effect, the European Commission has proposed assigning €37 billion of European public investment to tackle the consequences of the pandemic. More information

Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative Plus

This initiative will complement the first package of measures with a similar name by introducing greater flexibilityThis will be done by freeing up unused money from European Structural and Investment Funds (Regional Development, Social, and Cohesion Funds) in order for it to be fully taken advantage of. Furthermore, additional support will be given to the most deprived by changing the rules for both the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund. More information.

Digital technologies and Covid19

Member States have agreed on a set of technical specifications, with the support of the Commission, to guarantee secure exchange of information between national contact tracing apps. This will apply to most of tracing apps that were already – or are about to be – launched in the EU. This is a significant step towards interoperability of these apps as Member States start lifting travel restrictions to crossing borders, and should allow them to work automatically upon entry into another country.  More information.

EC continues its solidarity

The European Commission has mobilised another €50 million in humanitarian aid to support the increased need for humanitarian support caused by the coronavirus pandemic globally. The new funding follows increased calls from humanitarian organisations, including the UN Global Appeal. The new funding will help vulnerable people facing major humanitarian crises to access health services, water, and sanitation. The financing targets regions such as the Sahel and Lake Chad regions, the Central African Republic, Syria, Yemen, Palestine, and others.  More information.

EC grants for treatments and diagnostics

Following the fast-track call for Development of therapeutics and diagnostics combatting coronavirus infections launched through the Innovative Medicine Initiative (IMI), 8 large-scale projects have been selected to benefit from the available means of funding of €117 billion. SMEs represents 20% of the successful proposals. The European Commission has increased its commitment to €72 million compared to the initially planned amount of €45 million. The IMI is a public-private partnership between the EU and the European pharmaceutical industry. More information.

EU COVID-19 Data Platform

The European Commission and its partners have established an EU COVID-19 Data Platform to advance research efforts by quickly gathering and sharing comprehensive coronavirus research data. The Platform will enable researchers to store and share information, such as DNA sequences, protein structures, data from preclinical research, and clinical trials, as well as epidemiological data. This initiative greatly speeds up research and discovery, accelerating an effective response to the current troubles. More information

EU Emergency Support Instrument

In order to support the healthcare systems of EU Member States, the Commission plan – in areas where action is best taken at EU level – to quickly complement ongoinnational efforts. This may include procurement and distribution of medical supplies, as well as facilitating the transfer of patients in border regions. To finance this, €3 billion will be mobilised from the EU budget, of which €2.7 billion will be provided through the Emergency Support Instrument and €300 million though the rescEU initiative. More information.

European Commission banking package

The European Commission has adopted a banking package to support bank lending to both households and businesses across the EU. The initiative’s objective is to ensure continuity in banks’ lending so as to mitigate the ongoing economic storm. Moreover, the package includes “quick fix” amendments to various EU frameworks, which will enable banks to keep liquidity flowing and so allow households and businesses to access necessary financing. More information.

EU Roadmap for Phasing out Measures

Cooperation between EU institutions is essential to define a roadmap for the phasing-out of the measures put in place for containing the epidemic. These short-term measures have helped to restrict the spread of Covid-19, but a strategic long-term recovery plan is needed in order to exit the ongoing socioeconomic crisis. In order to revitalise the economy and get back onto the path of sustainable grow, the Commission will develop a recovery plan based on the EU budget. More information.

EU Support to Healthcare Systems

The European Council has quickly approved the Commission’s proposal to activate the EU’s Emergency Support Instrument as a means of assistance to healthcare systems in Member States. The funding channels an amount of €2,7 billion that will be used to distribute protective gear, transfer patients to hospitals with free capacity, and to develop medication and testing methods.  The Emergency Instrument will be used jointly with other tools that are already operative. More information.

EU worldwide pledging marathon

The European Union and partnering health organisations have launched a worldwide pledging marathon to collect funds for the global medical response to coronavirus.  Countries, philanthropic organisations, and businesses around the world are invited to participate to reach the target amount of €7.5 billion. The fund will channel money into three areas: diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines.  More information.

European Vaccine Strategy 

The development of an effective vaccine against Covid19 is one of the top priorities of European CommissionThanks to a common joint action with Member States, the  Commission has presented European Vaccine Strategy. This will ensure the quality, safety and efficacy of vaccines for Member States and equitable and affordable prices for the citizensThe Commission will support efforts to accelerate the development and availability of vaccines in a timeframe of between 12 and 18 months. More information.

Global pledging response to Covid-19 

Following the European Commission’s world pledging marathon, an amount of €7.4 billion has been raised through the contributions of donors worldwide. Countries, corporations, and philanthropic organisations expressed solidarity and highlighted the importance of being united to develop, produce, and deploy vaccines, treatments, diagnostic tests, and medical systems to stop the spread of the illness. More information.

Horizon 2020: Commission additional call

With the aim of finding medical solutions to Covid-19 as soon as possible, the European Commission has mobilised an additional €112 million from Horizon 2020 funding. The new call looks for complementary innovative actions that would complement earlier actions to develop diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines by strengthening capacity to produce, deploying available solutions, and addressing pressing needs. It will also help in understanding the behavioural and socio-economic impacts of the epidemic. More Information.

How to fight disinformation

Considering the amount of fake news that is circulating online, the European Commission has invited its citizens and businesses tinform themselves through the relevant websites of the European Institutions and of international organisations. Being well informed helps all of society to respond healthily to Covid-19. In the article below, you will find more information and a series of facts shared by the Commission in relation to badly and maliciously reported news. More information

Impact of Cohesion Policy in regions

EU Cohesion Policy is playing a key role in improving healthcare systems across regions, especially during the pandemic. The financing resources delivered by the EU are helping countries and individual regions to face the novel health emergency. One clear example is the case of Bulgaria: 237 emergency medical centres have been modernised throughout the country, 400 medical vehicles have been purchased, and 182 ambulances have been equipped with modern instruments. More information.

Legal basis for the financing instrument Next Generation EU

The following article illustrates the legal basis for the exceptional financing instrument designed to enable Member States to recover from the outbreak, called Next Generation EU. This will see the EU borrow money in order to allocate funds to various programmes in order to help stimulate an economic recoveryGiven the current situation, borrowing is seen as a justified means to attain the Union’s objectives. It must be in line with the principle of budgetary discipline. More information.

New Belgian Innovative Hub

Thanks to the support of EU Cohesion Policy, several projects have been financed to find solutions to combat the spread of coronavirus. In this respect, the so-called “FabLab” of TRAKK, the Belgian Innovative City Lab in Namur,  is working to determine a functional prototype; Namur developers are producing a syringe pump to inject the right dose of medication, which will help hospitals as they begin experiencing shortages of syringes because of their high demand for Covid-19 treatment. More information

Next generation EU recovery plan

The European Commission has proposed a new recovery instrument worth €750 billion named “Next Generation EU”. This would be embedded within a powerful, modern, revamped, long-term EU budget to enable Europe to get back on its feet. Complemented by national efforts, the EU budget – or Multiannual Financial Framework – aims to reinforce a fair socio-economic recovery and restart the Single Market. Investments will be particularly directed towards the green and digital transitions which are key to Europe’s future prosperity and resilience. More information.

Member States Smart Connection

Cooperation between EU institutions is essential to define a roadmap for the phasing-out of the measures put in place for containing the epidemic. These short-term measures have helped to restrict the spread of Covid-19, but a strategic long-term recovery plan is needed in order to exit the ongoing socioeconomic crisis. In order to revitalise the economy and get back onto the path of sustainable grow, the Commission will develop a recovery plan based on the EU budget. More information.

Reconfiguring EU state aid rule

The Commission, intending to improve the interplay between EU funding and state aid rules, is inviting the Member States and other stakeholders to comment on an updated proposal to simplify rules for State Aid combined with EU support. The proposal aims to remove complexities, for example no longer requiring states to give prior notification of state aid measures. This proposal is an attempt to address the key concerns raised by stakeholders in the first consultation. More Information

State Aid Temporary Framework 

The Commission has also adopted a Temporary Framework to economically support Member States during the COVID-19 outbreak. This allows them to ensure sufficient liquidity – that is, enough cash to meet immediate needs – to all types of businesses, particularly to SMEs. In such a way they may continue their activities during and after COVID-19. Within this Temporary Framework, countries may set up schemes to grant up to €800,000 per company to address its urgent liquidity needs. More information

SURENew instrument to protect workplaces

The European Commission has launched a new proposal to protect jobs. Within the solidarity instrument called SURE, the Commission has proposed extending loans on favourable terms of up to €100 billion in total to fund so-called “Kurzarbeit”, or “short-time work”, schemes.  Such schemes allow companies experiencing difficulties to receive compensation from the state for having to reduce the hours worked by their employees. In this way they encourage managers not to fire staff, leading to decreased economic disruption for both employers and employees. More information.

Team Europe: Global Response

The Team Europe package – the global EU response to the pandemic – will support partner countries and fragile populations.  This new financing approach combines resources from the EU, its Member States, and other supportive institution, such as the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The financing package is of €15,6 billion.  The EU’s aim here is to address partner countries’ short-term needs and their longer-term socioeconomic structure. More information.

Tourism and Transport: new package

The Commission has introduced a new package of guidelines to better address the post-COVID recovery and ensure the reopening of the tourism sector and allow citizens to travel across Europe, by taking into consideration necessary health precautions. The package is based on several rules and principles to illustrate how to travel safely and supporting measures for SMEs. Moreover, the guidelines recommend the Member States to gradually re-establish connections with each other. More information.

State Aid: Finnair recapitalisation

The European Commission has approved €286 million to recapitalise Finnair – the Finnish national airlineAirlines have been particularly affected by the pandemicFinnair is essential to the domestic and international connectivity needs of Finland. The national economy, many jobs and the development of foreign trade count on these services. The initiative aims to encourage market investments and limit the distortion of competition.  More information.

Coronavirus’ impact on SMEs

A Survey on the Access to Finance of Enterprises has been carried out in the eurozone, covering the period of October 2019 to March 2020. It shows that the financial situation of euro-area SMEs showed a general deterioration. The SMEs surveyed signalled a decline in turnover and a sharp deterioration in their profits in net terms. The Survey points out that SMEs’ need for bank loans is increased, and that they are encountering obstacles to accessing external financing. More information

Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme

The European Central Bank (ECB) has proposed €750 billion Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme in response to the pandemic. In practice, this means that it will increase the amount of money it lends to national governments in the Eurozone to support their economies. The ECB has committed to do everything necessary and to increase the money made available through this programme as much and for as long as needed. More information.

€576 million in financing for SMEs

The European Investment Bank (EIB) Group, jointly with Banco Sabadell, are supporting SMEs, who find themselves among those most affected by the pandemic. The EIB Group – via the European Investment Fund (EIF)  has granted Banco Sabadell a €96 million guarantee for a loan securitisation portfolio allowing the Spanish bank to increase its lending capacity to offer €576 million of financing for projects from Spanish companiespart of which will go towards promoting climate action. More information.

EIB Group’s economic support

The European Investment Bank Group has approved a pan-European guarantee fund of €25 billion, whose objective is to deliver up to €200 billion to the European economy. This guarantee fund will support SMEs, mid-caps and corporates in Member States that are high-risk but recoverable in the long-term. The majority of the funding will be delivered through financial intermediaries in all EU countries, for example commercial banks or National Promotional Institutions. More information.

EIB Group financial and advisory support

The EIB Group is firmly supporting the world’s primary challenge: finding the antidote to the coronavirus. The continuous search for vaccines, treatments, and diagnostic methods is bringing numerous major donors together to show more than ever solidarity and unity. Thus, the EIB Group is helping bridge the funding gap and cooperating with global partners; the Bank has pledged a total amount of investments totalling around €770 million as an initial contribution. More information.

European Investment Bank Support

Following the declaration of a pandemic, the European Investment Bank Group announced the mobilisation of up to €40 billion in response to the crisis. Together with the European Investment Fund, which specialises in support for SMEs, they will work to establish substantial and scalable guarantee that SMEs will have access to capital for as long as it is needed. More information.

Pan- European Guarantee Fund

The European Investment Bank Board has approved a €25 billion Pan-European Guarantee Fund (EGF). This financing instrument will mostly address SMEs across the whole EU. The EGF will target those companies that are viable in the long-term but are struggling in the current crisis. At least 65% of its financing will be SME-oriented. A maximum of 23% will be directed towards companies with 250 or more employees, with restrictions applying to larger companies with more than 3 000 employees. More information.

Council aid to EU the fishing industry

The Council of the European Union has adopted new rules to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on fisheries and aquaculture. This new act brings in several specific measures, including financial support for those forced to temporarily stop fishing, the flexibility to use 10% of certain budgetary funds allocated to climate, and compensating fishermen for reductions in sales and aquaculture farmers for additional storage costs. More information.

COVID-19 release EU funding

The unfolding economic crisis is increasingly accelerating the pace of change of European internal policies. The Council has adopted two new legislative acts aimed at quickly releasing funding from the EU budget. One of the acts amends the rules of European Structural and Investment Funds, while the other extends the scope of the EU Solidarity Fund to include public health emergencies, in addition to natural disasters. More information.

New slot airport amendment  

Following the decrease in air traffic caused by COVID-19, the European Union has decided to amend the regulation on airport slots, which oblige airlines to use at least 80% of their take-off and landing slots in order to maintain them the following year. The Council’s measure to suspend airport slot requirements until the 24th of October 2020 can be extended quickly by the Commission if the current serious situation persists. More information.

Think Tanks’ Pandemic Reports

The Covid emergency has already become a case study looked into by many prominent Think Tanks. Many of them have published their points of view on the pandemic, trying to offer a broad vision of what socio-economic consequences and what challenges will be encountered both in the short-term and long-term. A collection of Think Tanks’ reports on COVID 19, was published in March by the Council and is being regularly updated. More information.

Cybersecurity tips for SMEs

The Covid-19 outbreak may be an opportunity for small businesses to respond positively and with increasing speed to the current digital transformation. Because of this, the EU Agency for Cybersecurity has developed 10 tips for SMEs and citizens to stay secure when buying and selling online.  According to the Digital Economy and Society Index (2019), SMEs represent 99% of European businesses, of which 77% have a website. More information.

Rapid relief for SMEs to be distributed in April

An estimated €8 billion euros will be made available to SMEs beginning from this month to help meet their immediate needs for cashThis will be acieved through guarantees provided to banks and lenders in order to reduce the financial risks they face when offering loans to SMEs in such times of economic uncertainty. To free up this money, the EC has unlocked €1 billion from the European Fund for Strategic Investments which will then allow European Investment Fund to provide the said guarantees. More information.

European  Cluster Collaboration Platform

The European Cluster Collaboration Platform (ECCP), as part of Europe’s programme for small and medium enterprises (COSME), has created a new website to improve communication of the industrial cluster community.  The webpage’s objective is to support the efforts of industrial clusters to address the challenges posed by the COVID-19 epidemic in Europe. Over 1100 offers from companies were already connected to the European Commission via clusters with the support from the European Cluster Alliance. More information.

Solidarity Fund application guidelines

The European Commission has provided and published specific guidelines to fully support the EU countries in preparing their applications for assistance from the EU Solidarity Fund in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. The objective is to use the entire portfolio of funding options under the EU budget to support EU countries by maximising flexibility and reducing additional administrative work. The Solidarity Fun will provide financial aid of up to €800 million to the worst affected countries. More information.

The Pan-European Hackathon

Between the 24th and 26th of April the first pan-European hackathon will take place, organised by the European Commission together with European society, to pinpoint short-term innovative solutions for easing the negative consequences of the corona crisis. The pan-European hackathon #EUvsVirus will involve startups, retailers, public and private buyers, and citizens and will target sectors such as health & medicine, business continuity, social cohesion, protection of at-risk groups, and education. More information.

EU co-financing aid shipments

Both EU Member States (MSs) and neighbouring countries have been showcasing effective cooperation and solidarity in order to overcome the health crisis. Through the EU Civil Protection, the EU is coordinating and co-financing the delivery of medical equipment not only in MSs, but also in partner countries outside the EU; for example, Slovakia is delivering masks and disinfectant to Italy while Austria has sent gloves and disinfectant to Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Moldova. More information.

EU COVID-19 Data Platform

The European Commission and its partners have established an EU COVID-19 Data Platform to advance research efforts by quickly gathering and sharing comprehensive coronavirus research data. The Platform will enable researchers to store and share information, such as DNA sequences, protein structures, data from preclinical research, and clinical trials, as well as epidemiological data. This initiative greatly speeds up research and discovery, accelerating an effective response to the current troubles. More information.

CoR: Sustainable recovery plan

The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) is calling on all EU institutions and Member State for an ambitious social and economic recovery plan, based on solidarity, sustainability, resilience and social justice. The CoR has suggested creating an EU Health Emergency Mechanism by directly involving regions and cities in the establishment of a new EU Pandemic Coordination Centre. They argue that such cooperation would help build a new circular and inclusive economy. More information.

Calls for economic response for tourism industry

Among other sectors, tourism has been strongly hit by the coronavirus pandemic. EU Tourism Ministers have called for significant support and equal rules for air, sea, and land mobility. They stressed that the tourism sector should be amongst the main priorities of the EU’s recovery plan and encouraged the creation of a joint solution to the crisis in the sector since tourism contributes so significantly to Gross National Product in many Member States. More information.

COVID-19 impact on EU sports sector

The outbreak of the coronavirus has significantly impacted our society in several ways and the crisis has negatively affected most of the economic sectors, including sports. EU Ministers of Sport have stressed the fact that the sports federations are suffering economic losses since the vast majority of sports events have been cancelled. Moreover, they pointed out the importance of EU funds and the recognition of sport as an important part of regional development. More information.

Major shock for EU economies

The Covid-19 pandemic and the related containment measures have jeopardised people’s lives and EU member states’ economies. According to real-time data, the Union’s economy is slowing down dramatically. The EU is forecast to contract around 7.5% this year and to rebound only 6% in 2021. The Covid-19 crisis is a generalised shock affecting all member states but its impact is diverse. The recovery post-crisis will depend on the initial economic structure of the individual countries. More information.

European Parliament Voting new Rules

In the coming days, the European Parliament will come together with the European Commission and Council, to discuss the Commission’s new budget proposals for a bigger amount for 2021-2027 to support the post-crisis recovery. The Parliament intends to ask the Commission to provide a contingency budget proposal by the 15th of June, in case agreement is hard to reach. This would help avoid disruption to farmers, companies, and organisations counting on EU funds. More information.

MEPs ask for robust recovery package

As part of a resolution on the post-Covid EU budget revision and recovery plan, MEPs have called for a significant €2 trillion package based on citizens’ needs and interests. MEPs stress the importance of including a social dimension in the package, addressing both social and economic disparities and the needs of those hardest hit by the crisis. The Parliament insists that the new recovery and funding plan must respect the European Green Deal and Digital Agenda. More information.