Action by Member States to be based on five strands.

RB – 04/2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is creating an unprecedented challenge for the EU and the world. Fast, targeted and comprehensive action at EU, national, regional and local levels is therefore needed to address this challenge.

Due to the dynamic development of the corona pandemic in Europe and the impact this is having on the Member States, the European Council held an extraordinary video conference on 26 March 2020. The aim was to coordinate as effectively as possible the actions of the Member States with the EU institutions and between governments.

The leaders of the Member States agreed to base their actions on the following five strands:

Limiting the spread of the virus

Member States had already put in place their own measures to contain the spread of the virus. In addition, measures to protect the EU’s external borders were temporarily intensified. Currently, entry is only allowed for eessential travel. An extension of these measures will be decided on a case-by-case basis. Within the EU’s internal borders, people should be able to return to their home country as soon as possible, and there should be smooth border management for goods.

Providing medical equipment

The provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) to healthcare workers in the EU is currently the most pressing priority. The leaders of the Member States called on the European Commission to identify ways to speed up the joint procurement of PPE, ventilators and tests. The European Commission will start by increasing the budget for the strategic rescEU stockpile of medical equipment (including for intensive care), vaccines and medicinal products (as of 17 April 2020: €380 million).

Promoting research

€140 million have already been allocated to 17 research projects, including projects to develop a vaccine. In a joint statement, the leaders of the Member States advocated a European and global collaborative approach to vaccine research and development. This vaccine should be developed in the shortest possible time and be available globally.

Tackling socio-economic consequences

The leaders pointed out that far-reaching measures to support the economy and mitigate social problems had already been put in place. However, Member States need enough flexibility to be able to implement these measures. Using the escape clause of the Stability and Growth Pact is a major step forward. The Commission’s proposal for a Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative will provide €37 billion from the Cohesion Fund to counter the effects of the crisis.

Helping citizens stranded in third countries

Further efforts will be made to return EU citizens to Europe who are stranded in third countries. The European Commission will provide guidelines on facilitating the transit of repatriated EU citizens in an addendum to the Border Management Guidelines.

Learning from the crisis

While combating the pandemic is currently the number one priority, it was suggested that post-crisis measures should be prepared. The normal functioning of stable European societies and economies requires a coordinated exit strategy, a comprehensive recovery plan and an unprecedented investment package.

There must also be reflection on the resilience of society to these type of crises. Consideration should be given to establishing a far-reaching crisis management system in the EU.