The European Commission (EC) has responded to the COVID- 19 crisis with the creation of a task force of 8 European Commissioner’s who’s portfolio contain relevant policy areas. Looking at the overview of actions that the European Commission has taken, it is clear that the tools at its disposal to directly tackle the crisis are rather limited.
The measures with the biggest impact are the once that create flexibility and breathing space for the Member States to tackle the crisis at the national level. Member states will, for example, be allowed to run bigger budgets deficits, provide more state aid to companies and business and provide liquidity to the banks.
It is important to note that the European Commission states that its main role is to support Member States in addressing the crisis, providing recommendations on a common course of action.
The Council of the European Union and the European Council have been coming together frequently over the past weeks and here the Member States try to coordinate their actions in terms of tackling the crisis. They have been swift to endorse the measures proposed by the European Commission and have asked assess how the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) can be used if the crisis worsens.
The Croatian presidency of the council has also activated the integrated political crisis response (IPCR) arrangements, coordinating the political response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Another key European institution during this COVID-19 crisis is the European Central Bank (ECB). The ECB has announced on March 18th the establishment of €750 billion Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme (PEPP)
The PEPP is a temporary asset purchase program to navigate the economic downturn across the eurozone linked to the coronavirus outbreak and should last until the end of 2020.
Furthermore, the ECB states that it will ensure that all sectors of the economy can benefit from supportive financing conditions that enable them to absorb this shock. This applies equally to families, firms, banks and governments.
The European Parliament (EP) has been severely impacted in its operations by the virus outbreak. With the parliament building in Brussels being shut, committees and plenary sessions have been cancelled and postponed. The ENVI committee, responsible for public health in the European Parliament has published a report summarizing the state of play in February and stressing the important role of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). The EP is expected to also swiftly approve all the support measures proposed by the EC during an extraordinary plenary session today, Thursday March 26th.
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