EUROPEAN Union member states will get a slice of a €37 billion fund to help them through the Coronavirus crisis – money that will help reinforce the healthcare services and support small and medium-sized businesses, employed and self-employed workers, and essential community facilities and actions.
Spain and Italy, currently the two worst-affected countries in the EU-27, had been putting pressure on Brussels to act, and are likely to be the first to benefit from this crucial financial assistance.
It is likely the UK will not, because although it remains in ‘transition’ until New Year’s Eve this year, the country officially left the EU at midnight on January 31.
Spanish president Pedro Sánchez and his Italian counterpart Matteo Renzi had boycotted the latest EU heads of State summit, preventing it from going ahead, in protest over the Union’s slow response to their plight.
But Brussels has been working round the clock since then to figure out how much cash it can spare.
A total of €8bn comes from pre-financing of structural funds not spend in 2019, meaning countries given a slice of it will not have to pay it back in the future.
Another €29bn will be handed over as part of the funding the recipient countries would have received later this year, meaning it will not have to be paid back, either.
Member States will also have greater flexibility in terms of redirecting their resources to where they are most needed, meaning any debts to the EU, or national debts above the permitted levels, will not take priority this year as the population and the health services need to come first.
The EU’s relief fund was originally set up for helping with natural disasters such as floods, storms and earthquakes, but has now been extended to cover public health emergencies.
Full details will be published in the EU’s daily journal tomorrow (March 31) and the funding will come into effect from Wednesday, April 1.