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Remarks by Commissioner Gentiloni at the Eurogroup press conference

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC), gepubliceerd op maandag 16 maart 2020.

Good evening,

Let me begin with a thought for the thousands of people who have already lost someone dear to them and more broadly, for the many millions of people who are concerned about their health and that of their families.

I also want to express my respect and gratitude to the health workers across Europe who are on the frontline against the coronavirus.

The priority of the European Commission is to save as many lives as possible. Nothing matters more.

At the same time, it is clear that this health crisis is set also to take a severe toll on our economies.

And let me be clear that that is also a very human consideration: behind the economic data and market indicators that we see flashing red are the jobs and livelihoods of our citizens.

So our policy response clearly needs to match the gravity of the situation. We will meet frequently, as Mario said.

Let me say something very clearly. We will need unprecedented coordination on fiscal issues to restore confidence. Unprecedented coordination on fiscal issues.

The immediate priorities are:

Ensuring health systems have all the resources they need - we all need to do whatever it takes to make this happen;

Providing liquidity for affected companies;

And protecting people's jobs and incomes.

The Commission set out on Friday how we can achieve that:

By defending the single market and ensuring solidarity;

Mobilising the EU budget and the EIB group;

Through a smart application of our state aid framework, which Margrethe Vestager explained to Ministers in today's meeting;

And using the full flexibility of our fiscal framework.

I will highlight two points.

First, our initial assessment of the significant fiscal and liquidity measures decided so far by Member States:

Discretionary fiscal measures at national and EU level amount to about 1% of GDP for 2020. This figure will surely become larger very soon.

This is of course in addition to the very significant impact of automatic stabilisers.

Furthermore, liquidity facilities announced - which include public guarantees and delays in tax collection - add up to at least 10% of GDP.

In short, decisive action is being taken.

At the same time, and this is my second point, there is a clear commitment in today's statement, and the Commission will work on this, to take whatever further coordinated and decisive policy action is necessary, including fiscal measures, to support growth and employment.

Because we are in a situation that is developing day by day, it is quite evident that our policy response will also need to develop quickly. And I can assure you that the Commission is fully committed to making sure that this happens.

Our job, I repeat, is to replace fear with confidence.

The EU can and will rise to this challenge.

Thank you.

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