The European Union Prepares to Battle the Coronavirus

The coronavirus and its impact is now being felt heavily across the globe. As cases continue to rise and solutions to the devastating virus look far from reach, world leaders are convening to discuss potential measures that could be life-saving in the upcoming period.

Italy: More Than 1,000 Coronavirus Deaths

Italy is Europe’s worst-affected with deaths and cases topping the 1,000 mark. Countries globally are now rushing to prevent further complications by following strict guidelines and taking measures to ensure the safety of the general public. While China says the country has witnessed its peak and life is returning to normal, it might not be the case elsewhere around the world.

Europe Readies for the Full Impact of Coronavirus

On March 10 European leaders gathered for a virtual conference through which they aimed to bolster their plans to fight the coronavirus. In a bloc where people have begun to panic, addressing their needs and moving forward as one single Union was the need of the hour. The economic stress that the coronavirus has brought is not only on European economies but also on global markets. Following the videoconference between the 27 members, the European Commission and Council’s Presidents Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel announced a €25 billion coronavirus fund that would help small and medium enterprises along with hard-hit sectors and the healthcare system of member states. A further €7.5 billion would be injected later through the current EU budget.

Following the crucial videoconference between leaders of the bloc, von der Leyen stressed some key arrangements to help “weather the storm.” Firstly, the European Commission will hold daily conferences with Health Ministers and Internal Affairs Ministers to coordinate and implement the needed measures. Secondly, the Commission will take a stock of all the respiratory devices and protective equipment and assess their availability and distribution. This comes in the wake of Germany and France announcing that they will curb the export of their medical equipment. The Commission will also form an emergency team of medical specialists to present guidelines feasible for the 27-member bloc. In terms of funding, we can see that the European Union has the budget to fend off the problems brought by the virus. €140 million will also be allocated for the funding, research and development of vaccines as announced by the Commission.

What is the ‘Corona Response Investment Initiative?’

What the European Union is now trying to do is to act collectively to stem the threats posed by this new virus. Rather than acting on an individual level, as highlighted by Germany and France, the Union wants to bring all countries together to achieve targets which would be impossible without the inclusion of all stakeholders. The Corona Response Investment Initiative is the core component of this economic facilitation which will focus on labor markets, healthcare systems and other vulnerable parts of the European economy. How will this fund work? The European Union will ask member states to refund pre-financing for European structural and investment funds.

According to the official statement released by the European commission, “The member states will be required to use these amounts to speed up their investments under the structural funds. They will use this for the national co-financing they would normally have had to provide themselves in order to receive the next tranches of their structural fund envelopes. In view of the average co-financing rates across member states, the €7.5 billion will be able to trigger the release and use of some €17.5-18 billion of structural funding across the EU.

The Commission is paying close attention through this initiative to:

– Support people so that income and jobs aren’t affected and to avoid its permanent affects.

– Support firms to ensure their liquidity.

– Safeguard health systems by ensuring that they receive the necessary supplies, preserving the integrity of the single-market system.

– Allow members to make cohesive decisions through the State Aid, Stability and Growth Pact Frameworks.

We can see that while the European Union is quick to protect member countries, the support it showed for Italy was poor. China has already offered support to the Italians; handing out masks, medical equipment and even specialists to help tackle the spread of the disease. What the European Union did was just offer words of support rather than taking actual measures in this time of immense need.

Taking Strong Steps to Prevent Coronavirus From Spreading

Flights, sporting events and public gatherings have been banned in many countries across the globe. This has severely impacted financial markets, forcing the price of oil to decline rapidly. The drastic impact that the virus is going to have on markets in the future is something everyone should make necessary preparations for. The European Parliament is also in lock down after an MP tested positive for the virus. While we see governments across the globe taking swift measures to battle the coronavirus, we need to promise ourselves to ensure that strict measures are being enforced and guidelines laid out by the World Health Organization are being followed.

The coronavirus is not something that’s impossible to defeat. Yes, times are tough, many people have died and the future seems uncertain. However, if we lose hope now and stay behind in this battle to eliminate the virus, it may have serious repercussions in the near future. For now, we must help and support those in need and clarify our intentions to give this virus the treatment it deserves so that it never returns to cause the financial, emotional and health losses it has already wreaked across the globe.