The EU must demonstrate its firepower Coordinated response to the COVID 19 Outbreak — Coordinated response to the COVID 19 Outbreak
During this time of severe crisis Europe has to stand as one. Only by working together can we as European tackle the challenges that the Covid 19 outbreak poses. The Renew Europe group is steadfast in its determination to do everything within our power to ensure a proper European response and leave no means untouched. It is in this light that the Renew Europe Group welcomes the Commission communication of 13 March on a coordinated economic response to the COVID 19 Outbreak. We need to ensure support on the health, economic and social dimensions of this crisis. We cannot allow this crisis to weaken the European Union and how it reacts to such challenges. While we will further strife to build a more robust Union, we now need to react rapidly to this crisis. Europe needs to stand together in solidarity with its citizens. The citizens are fearful for their health and their livelihood, the Union most act now in order to relieve this burden where we can. We need to slow down the virus outbreak, protect our citizens’ health, their jobs and incomes, and keep our economies afloat. It is therefore that the Renew Europe Group created a Taskforce to ensure we play our part in tackling this crisis. Renew Europe proposes the following measures that should be put in place without delay:
1. European action regarding the health of our citizens
• We need to guarantee equal access to and the EU wide circulation of protective equipment and medical counter-measures via the Medical Stockpiling Act and the accelerated joint procurement procedures. We need to ensure that there are no medical shortages.
• The EU also needs to facilitate the circulation within the EU of , blood and organs as well as the transport of patients between Member States in the framework of the Cross-border Healthcare Directive in order to relieve the emergency capacity of certain Member States that can no longer cope.
• We urge member states to continuously share best practices and coordinate the measures taken in the fight against Covid19; We urge the Commission to facilitate a online platform to accommodate this.
• We need a European information channel for providing citizens and health professionals with a European digital information point where all relevant information related to the Coronavirus outbreak in all official languages will be available to protect against disinformation.
2. European action to counter the economic and social impact of the crisis
• We urge the finance ministers of the Euro area to approve the SBBS proposal and to set up new COVID-19 dedicated-instrument within the European Stability Mechanism to mobilise significant financial recourses with targeted conditionality. This 500bn euro instrument has the necessary firepower to tackle the economic impact of the pandemic. We propose this in order to prevent a new Eurozone crisis because of interest on bonds rising to unaffordable levels and therefore creating a default risk for Member States.
• We call for the mobilisation of significant additional funding to support the urgent implementation by Member States of employment protection programs such as short time work schemes, to avoid dismissing workers and minimise job losses if Members States would run out of means to provide this themselves.
• The EU should request Member States to inform teleworkers, especially those working from public offices who are hackers’ primary targets, about the European Cybersecurity Agency ENISA recommendations on how to work safely from home.
• We urge the mobilisation of the European Globalisation Fund (EGF) and European Social Fund (ESF) to support dismissed workers and the self-employed / independent professionals affected by the crisis by allowing 100% EU co-finance.
• We call on the Commission to relocate and deploy the ESF and the Fund for European Aid to the most deprived (FEAD) to ensure strategic stockpiling to meet basic needs and ensure the delivery of food and material assistance to vulnerable groups throughout Europe.
• We call on the Commission urgently to create a Critical Regions Assistance Facility, which can provide emergency funding for ensuring special transports of critical supplies to address the needs of remote, isolated, transport-deficient regions, which will be particularly hard-hit by the crisis.
• We call for the European Solidarity Corps to be deployed, with full and adequate protection means, to assist in front-line efforts to contain and combat the pandemic. We call on the European Union to use the EUR 4 billion of “fresh money put aside in the EU budget 2020 for crises and unforeseen events to mitigate the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
• We are determined to negotiate an ambitious MFF giving a real capacity to act to the EU and to set up a European Recovery Plan to re-launch our economies, including the Green Deal and digital agenda.
• We urges the Commission to find solutions to guarantee further flexibility of budgetary transfers between the ESIF Funds; and guarantee flexibility of transfers between regions within the same Member State, complimented with a single co-financing rate for the whole territory and to allow structural funds to be mobilised in the form of further guarantees for the EIB at the Member State level.
• Calls on the Commission and Member States to allow 100% co-financing at projects level for both public and private sector taking into account the flexibility of state aid rules introduced by the Commission.
• For the long term the EU should request national authorities to waive any penalties and sanctions against service providers, companies and self-employed persons of procurement for delays or failure to execute contracts when this is due to Covid-19 (see measures in place in Belgium by minister Ducarme).
• The EU should request Member States to inform consumers about their rights as regards travel and accommodation booking cancellations; We suggest for the Commission to prepare Recommendations to travel companies not to tax reimbursement of cancelled booking for travel.
• The Commission should propose and coordinate Member States in providing unused slots at EU airports that are handed back to the air cargo sector in order to support the supply of medicines, medical equipment and food, as well as to keep European and global supply chains functioning.
• Calls on the Commission to establish a clear action plan and effective mechanism of crisis-management cooperation between Member States in order to re-establish full connectivity and to guarantee the continuity of freight and passenger transport within the EU.
• We call for cushioning the negative socio-economic effects in the fisheries’ sector by increasing of the minimum aid cap (Regulation 717/2014) and the amendment of articles 33 and 55 (temporary cessation) and article 67 (support storage aid) of Regulation 508/2014 to introduce additional flexibility to direct the use of the current EMFF.
3. European measures with regard to the impact of border measures
• The EU should keep borders open, at a minimum for goods, in order to avoid shortage of supplies. Without exemption all Member States should adhere to this, as of now.
• We call on the Member States to allow citizens to return to their home or their resident countries through their territories.
• Calls upon Member States to fully respect the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (Geneva Convention) and the European asylum law acquis. Points out that provisions have to be made for the reception of new asylum seekers, and ensure they will not be forced to live on the streets, both for humanitarian and sanitary reasons. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to strengthen the medical assistance in EU hotspots and areas with high numbers of migrants to ensure early detection of cases of Coronavirus and appropriate assistance to ill persons.