The head of the European Commission warned Wednesday (25 March) that the economic aftermath of the coronavirus could leave strategic private sector firms exposed to foreign takeovers.
In her daily video message, Ursula von der Leyen said the European economy would continue to welcome foreign direct investment, but must “protect our critical assets and technologies.”
New guidelines today that protect companies and infrastructure in this crisis against foreign takeovers. We help Member States screen offers from outside Europe. 🇪🇺will remain open to foreign direct investment but we need to balance it with our responsibility to protect. pic.twitter.com/9fxVMt8Kqz
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) March 25, 2020
“The coronavirus crisis affects deeply the European economy, and many companies are temporarily weakened by this crisis, we need to take care of them,” she warned.
“Some sectors are key for security, public health and serenity, such as health, medical research or strategic infrastructure,” she added.
The EU chief has previously said Brussels intervened with a loan to help a German firm working on a possible coronavirus vaccine that had reportedly attracted interest from US investors.
Von der Leyen urged EU member states to screen potential outside investors carefully, and said Brussels would issue refreshed guidelines.
“To those member states that do not have such a mechanism, I tell them now is the time to create it,” she said.
“In the meantime, you should use all options to protect critical European companies from foreign takeovers or influence that could undermine our security and public order.”
On Wednesday, the Commission issued guidelines to ensure a strong EU-wide approach to foreign investment screening in a time of public health crisis and related economic vulnerability.
EU leaders will hold a video summit on Thursday to better coordinate their response to the global epidemic.
Europe has become the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic with Italy the most affected country in the world, followed by Spain.