The European Parliament gave its green light Friday to rapid implementation of a number of proposals for redirection of EU policy funds to address the effects of the coronavirus public health crisis.
The votes allow for: an unprecedented redirection of cohesion policy funds to address the effects of the public health crisis (CRII+ Initiative); an additional €3.08 billion of EU funds for healthcare (the Emergency Support Instrument) and emergency medical capacity (rescEU); additional funding for the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control; and a number of other support measures. The Parliament's green light follows approval by EU Member States in the Council for the majority of these initiatives; the CRII+ Initiative and the postponing of the Medical Devices Regulation still require approval by the Council.
All uncommitted money from current EU Cohesion Policy funds will now be mobilised to address the effects of the public health crisis. To make sure that funds can be redirected to where they are most urgently needed, transfers will now be possible between different funds, regions and policy programmes. The Initiative provides immediate liquidity with the possibility of using 100% EU financing for measures related to the crisis, meaning EU funds do not need to be matched by national co-financing before they can be unlocked. By allowing the flexible use of all available funds and by simplifying administrative procedures, the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative is providing unprecedented support to healthcare systems, industries and people across Europe. It will also now be possible to use the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived to buy protective equipment for volunteers delivering aid. Basic material assistance can be delivered through vouchers, lowering risks for the volunteers, who can continue to help the homeless, children living in poverty and people who depend on food banks.
€2.7 billion comes from the EU's Emergency Support Instrument for the healthcare sector. This will help fund urgent medical supply needs, such as masks and respirators, the transportation of medical equipment and patients in cross-border regions, the deployment of healthcare workers to contagion hotspots, and the construction of mobile field hospitals. The Commission will be able to directly procure equipment on behalf of the EU Member States and focus help where it is most needed.
€380 million is earmarked for creation of a European medical capacity, with equipment hosted by one or several Member States. The hosting State(s) will be responsible for procuring the equipment and the Commission will finance 100% of the medical capacity. The Commission's Emergency Response Coordination Centre will manage the distribution of the equipment to ensure it gets where it is needed the most. The first hosting state will be Romania and the production of the first ventilators has already started.
€3.6 million is set for the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), to enhance the ECDC's capacity to identify, assess and communicate threats to human health from communicable diseases, and in particular will increase the expert capacity.
The European Parliament supported a proposal to postpone the application of the Medical Devices Regulation by one year, to allow Member States, health institutions and industry to prioritise the fight against coronavirus. This proposal takes into account the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic and the need for an increased availability of vitally important medical devices across the EU. The Commission counts on receiving the Council's full support soon for this important measure.
The European Maritime and Fisheries Fund is to be modified to mitigate the impact of coronavirus on the seafood sector. Member States will be able to provide support for the temporary cessation of fishing activities and storage of fishery and aquaculture products. Assistance will also be granted under the Common Agricultural Policy: granting more flexibility in the use of financial instruments; making it easier for Member States to reallocate money under Rural Development Programmes (RDP) and alleviating the administrative pressure on national authorities dealing with RDPs.
Additional funds are also being released to reorganise EU spending for the year in line with the latest priorities. On top of freeing up money to support the healthcare sector, these draft amending budgets provide:
- €45 million to repatriate EU nationals stranded outside the EU;
- €350 million of migration management assistance to Greece, on top of the extra €350 million emergency assistance already being deployed, thus delivering on the Commission's commitment to rapidly mobilise an extra €700 million to manage the extraordinary migration and borders challenges faced by Greece;
- €100 million to help Albania recover from the devastating earthquake on 26 November 2019;
- €3.3 million of additional funding for the European Public Prosecutors' Office (EPPO) to boost its 2020 budget. The money will, for example, enable EPPO to recruit more quickly qualified staff and to buy IT equipment to start processing the first cases. Together with case-management support for EPPO mobilised already earlier this year, EPPO's total funding increase for 2020 is therefore at 48%.