Europe

EU to adopt coronavirus rescue package

Eurozone finance ministers agreed on $590 billion financial plan to support workers, businesses and healthcare

Agnes Szucs   | 10.04.2020
EU to adopt coronavirus rescue package European Union flags are seen waving outside the EU Commission Building at night in Brussels, Belgium ( Dursun Aydemir - Anadolu Agency )

BRUSSELS

Eurozone finance ministers agreed on a 540 billion-euro ($590 billion) coronavirus rescue package Thursday after nearly 20 hours of discussions.   

The rescue plan has three pillars, Eurogroup President Mario Centeno said at a press conference after the ministers concluded their teleconference. 

The plan will help workers, businesses and member states’ healthcare systems, Centeno said. 

A €100 billion ($109 billion) short-term employment scheme is meant to prevent millions from losing their jobs. 

The European Investment Bank will lend €200 billion ($218 billion) to European small- and medium enterprises. 

Member states can also ask for credit of up to 2% of their GDP from the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), a bailout fund created after the 2008 economic crisis. 

In total, up to €240 billion ($262 billion) in financing can be secured through the ESM. 

The ESM loans can only finance healthcare, cure or prevention related costs. The procedure will be monitored by the European Commission. 

European Union leaders have been struggling for weeks to reach an agreement on bailout measures meant to help the countries hardest hit by the economic fallout from the coronavirus. 

The main division was between the southern states of Italy, Spain and France and the northwestern countries of Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Finland. 

While the Mediterranean countries were insisting on launching an EU-wide economic recovery program financed by Eurobonds, the other group was adamant on refusing common debt. 

Eurozone ministers already held a videoconference earlier this week, but divisions prevented them from reaching a conclusion. 

Italy and Spain refused conditionality and sought more solidarity for economic recovery. 

The Mediterranean countries seem to have accepted conditionality after days of deadlock. 

In return, finance ministers promised to “keep on working on a recovery fund.” 

Eurozone finance ministers will discuss the agreement with their counterparts from EU members not using the common currency on Friday.

Since appearing in China last December, the novel coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, has spread to at least 184 countries and regions, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University in the U.S.

At least 1.5 million cases have been reported worldwide and more than 95,000 deaths with over 353,000 recoveries.

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