The members of the European Council discussed by video conference the COVID-19 outbreak and endorsed EU enlargement. EU leaders expressed their fullest sympathy with the Croatian presidency and people, declaring their readiness to assist in coping with the effects of the recent earthquake.
Leaders agreed that the COVID-19 pandemic requires urgent, decisive, and comprehensive action at the EU, national, regional and local levels.
The EU will do everything that is necessary to protect its citizens and overcome the crisis. It will continue to work along the following five strands:
-limiting the spread of the virus
-providing medical equipment, with a particular focus on masks and respirators
-promoting research, including research into a vaccine
-tackling socio-economic consequences
-helping citizens stranded in third countries.
“The crisis requires unity and responsibility of the whole EU. The investment plan of the European Commission secured €37 billion for economies and healthcare systems of the Member States and Croatia will receive €1,16 billion. The priority is to protect the health and jobs of the EU citizens!”
Andrej Plenkovic, Prime Minister of Croatia
› Limiting the spread of the virus
The control of the EU's external borders has been reinforced by applying a coordinated temporary restriction of non-essential travel to the EU. Leaders will monitor the situation and decide whether to prolong these measures.
Leaders also agreed to ensure smooth border management for persons and goods and to counter disinformation with transparent, timely and fact-based communication on their actions.
› Medical equipment and testing
Leaders asked the Commission to explore ways to speed up procedures concerning joint procurement initiatives for personal protective equipment, ventilators and testing supplies. In the light of the WHO recommendations, it is a matter of urgency to increase testing capacities. Member states will report to the Commission on the situation.
The Commission will increase the initial budget for the strategic rescEU stockpile of medical equipment, including for intensive care, and vaccines and therapeutics.
› Promoting research
140 million euro have already been mobilised for 17 projects, including on vaccines. Leaders welcomed the initiatives taken by the Commission, the European Innovation Council and the European Investment Bank (EIB) Group to provide financial support for the clinical and public health response to the COVID-19 disease.
› Tackling socio-economic consequences
Leaders supported the resolute action taken by the European Central Bank to ensure supportive financing conditions in all euro area countries and took note of the progress made by the Eurogroup. They also invited the Eurogroup to present proposals within two weeks.
The Commission proposal for a Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative will provide 37 billion euro of investment under cohesion policy to address the consequences of the crisis. With the proposed amendment to the EU Solidarity Fund, that fund can also be used for public health emergency situations such as the COVID-19 outbreak.
Leaders also commended the EIB Group's contribution in mobilising resources for bank guarantees to and investment in European companies, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises, including through the use of the EU budget. They invited finance ministers to explore without delay possibilities to scale up the EIB Group's coronavirus response overall.
› Helping citizens stranded in third countries
Leaders will further step up their efforts to ensure that EU citizens stranded in third countries who want to go home can do so. Member states will closely coordinate with the Commission and the Consular Task Force, set up by the EEAS.
EU enlargement and situation at the EU's external borders
Leaders endorsed the Council conclusions of 25 March 2020 on enlargement and stabilisation and association process.
“We are pleased with the confirmation of the decision to open accession negotiations with Northern Macedonia and Albania, which has fulfilled one of the Croatian Presidency priorities. This shows that the EU remains focused on its priorities even in difficult circumstances.”
Andrej Plenkovic, Prime Minister of Croatia
Leaders expressed their concerns over the situation at the Greek-Turkish border and their full solidarity with Greece, as well as with Bulgaria and Cyprus and other affected member states, including in efforts to manage the EU's external borders.