DRAFT JOINT STATEMENT OF THE MEMBERS OF THE EUROPEAN COUNCIL

The COVID-19 pandemic constitutes an unprecedented challenge for the whole world. It requires urgent, decisive, and comprehensive action on the part of the EU institutions and at the national, regional and local levels, as well as cooperation with our global partners. We will do everything that is necessary to protect our citizens and overcome the crisis, while preserving our European values and way of life. We count on the sense of responsibility of all EU citizens in this difficult moment.

We express our deepest sympathy with the victims of the pandemic and their families. We commend the dedication of the healthcare professionals at the forefront of the outbreak and the contribution of those who provide essential services to the population.

We will continue to work along the five strands defined at our videoconferences on 10 and 17 March 2020.

Limiting the spread of the virus

  1. All Member States have taken decisive action to contain and slow down the spread of the virus. This effort is underpinned and supported by the guidelines of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the recommendations of the Commission COVID-19 Advisory Panel. Further guidelines will be issued as necessary, and we will continue to keep track of developments through the EU’s Integrated Political Crisis Response mechanism (IPCR), activated by the Croatian Presidency.
  2. We have reinforced the control of our external borders by applying a coordinated temporary restriction of non-essential travel to the EU for a period of 30 days. We will evaluate the situation in due time and decide whether or not to prolong these measures.
  3. Where temporary internal border controls have been introduced, we will ensure smooth border management for persons and goods, based on the Commission guidelines of 16 March 2020, in accordance with the Schengen Borders Code, and the Commission’s guidance on the implementation of “green lanes”. Remaining problems with the supply of goods and essential services must urgently be solved. Adequate solutions must be found for EU citizens blocked at internal EU borders and prevented from joining their home countries and for cross-border workers who have to be able to continue their activities.
  4. In this time of crisis, we will counter disinformation with transparent and honest communication on what we are doing. We invite the Commission and the High Representative to assist the Member States in this respect.

Providing medical equipment

  1. We call on the Commission to continue and step up its efforts to help ensuring adequate provision  of medical equipment throughout the EU. The Member States should closely cooperate in this respect and provide the Commission with timely and reliable data.
  2. The adoption of the decision on the authorisation for export of personal protective Equipment should lead to the full lifting of any internal bans or restrictions, whether formal or informal.
  3. The Commission will, in cooperation with the industry, provide a detailed overview of stocks and production and take action to improve the situation. It will actively pursue its joint procurement initiatives for personal protective equipment, ventilators and testing supplies and will increase as needed the initial budget for the strategic rescEU stockpile of medical equipment, including for intensive care, and vaccines and therapeutics.
  4. In the light of the WHO recommendations, it is a matter of urgency to increase testing capacities.

Promoting research

  1. We will do everything possible to support research, coordinate efforts and seek synergies within the European scientific and research community so as to maximise the full potential of research across the EU. We will also work together with our key partners as set out in the recent G7 and G20 statements.
  2. There is an urgent need to share scientific information and to collaborate both within the EU and worldwide on the challenge of developing a vaccine in the shortest possible time, and to make it available to all those in need, without any geographical barriers. We will support European companies in this respect. EUR 140 million have already been mobilised for 17 projects on developing vaccines.
  3. We welcome 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

  1. We support the strong action taken by the European Central Bank To ensure supportive financing conditions in all euro area countries.
  2. [P.M EUROGROUP VC ON 24 MARCH]
  3. Our Member States have taken extensive action to support their economies and alleviate social and employment problems. We will use EU instruments to support their action to the extent necessary.
  4. Member States need flexibility to do everything that is necessary. The Commission’s Temporary Framework for State aid measures to support the economy in the current COVID-19 outbreak constitutes a major step forward. The same applies to the Unprecedented use of the general escape clause under the Stability and Growth Pact.
  5. The Commission proposal for a Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative will provide EUR37 billion 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. We look forward to the speedy adoption of these proposals. We also commend 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.
  6. We welcome the Commission Guidelines on Foreign Direct Investment and call on the Member States to exercise vigilance so as to ensure the EU’s strategic autonomy, during the crisis and afterwards.
  7. The COVID-19 pandemic affects people and societies all over the world and will have a long term impact on global economy and trade. The EU commits to international cooperation and multilateral solutions in tackling the pandemic and its consequences. It will do its utmost to assist countries and communities to fight the COVID-19 crisis. It will also do its utmost to strengthen the sustainability of global integrated value chains to adapt them as necessary and to alleviate the negative socio-economic impact of the crisis.

Citizens stranded in third countries]

  1. We call on The Member States, together with the High Representative and the Commission, to further step up their efforts to ensure that  EU citizens stranded in third countries who want to go home can do so.
  2. A Consular Task Force has been set up by the EEAS. Close coordination is ensured with the Commission and with the Member States. The Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) managed by the Commission assists the ongoing efforts for repatriations through the Union Civilian Protection Mechanism.

While the urgency is presently on fighting the Coronavirus pandemic and its immediate consequences, we should start to prepare the measures necessary to get back to a normal functioning of our societies and to sustainable growth, drawing all lessons from the crisis. This will require an exit strategy, a comprehensive recovery plan and unprecedented investment. To this end we invite the Commission to start work on a proposal for a Roadmap for recovery accompanied by an Action Plan.

We must also draw all the lessons of the present crisis and start reflecting on the resilience of our societies when confronted with such events. In that respect, the time has come to put into place a more ambitious and wide-ranging crisis management system within the EU, including, for instance, a true European Crisis Management Centre.

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