TALLINN – Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas in a teleconference with heads of state of European Union member states, President of the European Council Charles Michel and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday evening discussed restricting the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus and emphasized the importance of EU cooperation.
The heads of state and government leaders exchanged information on the measures implemented so far to prevent the spread of the virus and said they will continue cooperation between countries and efforts to put a stop to the spread of the coronavirus. EU ministers responsible for healthcare are exchanging information on developments on a daily basis, government spokespeople said.
Ratas emphasized the importance of cooperation and commended the European Commission for its quick action and support to jointly cope with the cross-border health threat.
"It is vital that member states work together to protect the health of their citizens. There is also a need to improve the availability of personal protective equipment and its overall coordination," the prime minister added.
Ratas considered it important that the national medical systems have sufficient resources and, at the same time, highlighted the joint procurement of protective equipment initiated by the European Commission, in which 19 member states are participating in addition to Estonia.
Leaders of EU member states also discussed the impact of the spread of the coronavirus on European economy.
"All member states must act smartly and quickly to ensure that the economic situation remains stable and that our employees and entrepreneurs are protected," Ratas said.
Under the leadership of the Ministry of Finance, Estonia is about to complete an analysis on the basis of which proposals will be drawn up for alleviating the economic impact of the virus.
"It is important that a temporary crisis does not become a widespread downturn. To this end, it is important that regions heavily affected by the virus are able to boost the economy and respond flexibly when needed," Ratas said.
"The European Union stands ready to do its utmost to minimize the impact of the virus on the economy," the prime minister said.
Participants of the teleconference also discussed the possibility of excluding expenditure on combating the coronavirus from the calculation of the structural balance of the state budget. The proposal will be discussed further by the finance ministers of the member states.
The European Commission on March 2 established a dedicated task force to respond to the novel coronavirus. The task force includes five members dealing with health, crisis management, transport, border management and macroeconomics issues.