TALLINN – Members of the European Parliament want to see a massive recovery package to support the European economy after the COVID-19 crisis, including recovery bonds guaranteed by the EU budget, as well as a EU Coronavirus Solidarity Fund of at least 50 billion euros.
In a resolution adopted on Friday, Parliament welcomes the EU’s fiscal measures and liquidity support to address the pandemic. Beyond what is already being done, Europe needs a massive recovery and reconstruction package to be financed by an increased long-term budget (MFF), existing EU funds and financial instruments, as well as "recovery bonds" guaranteed by the EU budget, MEPs said. It should not, however, involve the mutualization of existing debt, but focus on future investment. The European Green Deal and the digital transformation should be at its core in order to kick-start the economy, MEPs stressed.
MEPs also called for a permanent European Unemployment Reinsurance Scheme and want to establish an EU Coronavirus Solidarity Fund of at least 50 billion euros. This fund would support the financial efforts undertaken by the healthcare sectors in all member states during the current crisis, as well as future investments in order to make healthcare systems more resilient and focused on those most in need.
Joint European action to combat the COVID-19 pandemic is indispensable, the resolution stated. Not only must the European Union emerge stronger from this crisis, its institutions should also be empowered to act when cross-border health threats arise. This would enable them to coordinate the response at European level without delay, and direct the necessary resources to where they are most needed, be they material like face masks, respirators and medicines or financial aid.
MEPs also voiced their support for increasing EU production of key products such as medicines, pharmaceutical ingredients, medical devices, equipment and materials, to be better prepared for future global shocks.
They insisted that borders within the EU must be kept open to ensure that medicines and protective equipment, medical devices, food and essential goods can circulate. The EU's single market is the source of "our collective prosperity" and key to the immediate and continuous response to COVID-19, MEPs said.
Parliament also called for the creation of a European Health Response Mechanism, to ensure a better response to any type of health or sanitary crisis in the future. Common equipment, material and medicine stocks could be quickly mobilized to save lives. MEPs also wanted to see additional EU funding to finance speedy research to find a vaccine.
MEPs further underlined the need for a coordinated post-lockdown approach in the EU in order to avoid a resurgence of the virus. They urged EU countries to jointly develop criteria for lifting the quarantine and other emergency measures, and ask the European Commission to launch an effective exit strategy that includes large-scale testing and personal protective equipment for the largest possible number of citizens.
MEPs also voiced strong concerns regarding steps taken by the Hungarian government to prolong the country’s state of emergency indefinitely, to rule by decree without a time limit and to weaken the parliamentary emergency oversight. Furthermore, they highlighted that the Polish government’s decision to change the electoral code is unlawful and considered holding presidential elections in the middle of a pandemic to be totally incompatible with European values.
They called on the European Commission to urgently assess whether the emergency measures taken are in line with the EU treaties, and to make use of all available EU tools and sanctions to address this serious and persistent breach, including budgetary ones. The Council shall put the discussions and procedures related to the ongoing Article 7 procedures against Poland and Hungary back on its agenda.
Finally, the resolution stressed that disinformation about COVID-19 is a major public health problem. The EU should therefore establish a European information source to ensure that all citizens have access to accurate and verified information. MEPs also called on social media companies to proactively take the necessary measures to stop disinformation and hate speech related to the coronavirus.
The text was adopted by 395 votes in favor, 171 against with 128 abstentions.