The European Commission chief vowed to respond to member states’ requests to prop up small and medium firms up within hours amid numerous nationwide lockdowns to stop the spread of the virus. The Brussels-based executive will do “whatever is necessary” to support the bloc’s economy in the coming weeks. Mrs von der Leyen urged European capitals to cooperate in their response to the coronavirus crisis, condemning any unilateral actions.
“The single market has to function,” she said.
“It is not good when a member state takes unilateral action. I have seen travel bans and controls put in place. But let’s look together… certain controls may be justified but action has to be proportionate.”
After trying to retain control over the United Kingdom’s state aid rules in post-Brexit talks, the Commission last night sanctioned a £10.7 million Danish scheme to refund events canceled to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Germany has since called for its government to be allowed to offer “unlimited” loans of any size to the country’s businesses.
EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager urged countries not to flout rules on state aid provisions to weather the viral storm.
The Dane said there was a seven-day hotline available for member states to consult the Commission on legal ways to prop up ailing companies.
“We have to be able to rely on the European single market to help our economies weather this outbreak,” she said.
“Working with governments to compensate sectors hit particularly hard will work fast with any member states for schemes to compensate companies or to reimburse people for tickets that have been cancelled,” she added.
Mrs von der Leyen added: “We are absolutely ready to help Italy with whatever is necessary. Whatever they need, we will answer. And they will be hit by the crisis that follows Coronavirus.
“We will help the Italian people and the Italian government. We are all, in this moment, Italians.”
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“Our rules allow a wide-range of state aids in member states with emergency cases, and that is the case of Italy.”
Much of the cash being spent by the Commission comes from “sleeping money”, according to the Commission’s president.
“We free money that wouldn’t otherwise have been used,” she explained.
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Britain continues to pay into the bloc’s annual budget as part of the post-Brexit transition period, but it was not made clear whether the country will be able to access the EU funds.
UK taxpayers will fork out at least £10 billion to the Brussels coffers up until the end of the year.
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