Statement by President von der Leyen at the joint press conference with President Michel, following the EU Leaders' videoconference on COVID-19 of 26 March - EU monitor

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Statement by President von der Leyen at the joint press conference with President Michel, following the EU Leaders' videoconference on COVID-19 of 26 March

Source: European Commission (EC) i, published on Thursday, March 26 2020.

We are now several weeks into the crisis. This is why it is so important to ensure that we coordinate and align as much as possible our actions, both between Member States, and between the EU institutions and national governments.

That is why today's videoconference and the European Council was so important. We discussed with the Member States that we need an intelligent strategy that at the same time protects the health of our citizens, and keeps our economy afloat and our goods and cross-border workers moving. And it is only in this way that we can provide health services with the medical gear and equipment they need, the factories with the components to build ventilators for example, and our supermarkets with the goods to fill their shelves.

The issue of medical equipment is both crucial and urgent. As you know, the Commission is active on many fronts: It is organising joint procurement with Member States - the first results that we had this week are promising. It is adopting new EU standards, that means harmonising between all 27, making relevant ones free of charge, and simplifying procedures. We want to ensure equipment can be produced more easily, quickly and cheaply. It is also talking to industry, as I did yesterday with the producers of ventilators, to understand how to help them quickly increase and step-up the production.

Of course, our discussions also focused on the economic response to the crisis. The Commission is supporting Member States' efforts with all the tools at its disposal. We have, for example, activated the general escape clause in the Stability and Growth Pact, we have adopted a Temporary state aid Framework that is as flexible as never before.

Together, these decisions give the Member States all the room of manoeuvre they need at the moment. They need that room of manoeuvre to provide businesses, for example, and workers with financial support. And we are mobilising the EU budget to channel investment to the most urgent needs, notably thanks to the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative, it is possible now to invest in the labour market, in the healthcare sector or, for example, in other businesses that need support.

This Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative has been adopted today in the European Parliament. A flexible use of the budget can help us respond to many challenges in different sectors, like the agriculture or fisheries - so we also look into that.

But we must be very clear: We are in the final year of a seven year budget. This crisis shows how important - indeed crucial - it is to have a budget that can deal with complex crises such as this one. This calls for an ambitious new European budget that will support the EU economy to recover on one hand and hopefully make it possible for the economy to rebound as soon as conditions allow it.

Such a rebound requires first a well thought through exit strategy. We all have measures in place - these containment measures, social distancing - to contain the spread of the virus and to slow down the spread of the virus. Now, we need to coordinate our decisions when - at a certain time - we want to go back to normal. Because otherwise, we will undermine the effectiveness of the tough measures we took.

We discussed this today. We will develop such an exit strategy for our European Union. This should be based on a science-based protocol, proposing when and how to move away from, for example, the social distancing measures. We will be working on this protocol with scientists and experts. And we will work together, as Charles Michel i just explained, on a recovery strategy. This should allow our economy to kind of kick-start again when the right moment has come, because we should not forget, we have healthy companies and those have to bridge the gap to the time when the economy is picking up again, the orders come in again, they have to hibernate until then.

Last but not least, as Charles Michel just said, today we took part in the videoconference of G20 leaders. We are in a global crisis that requires a global response. And I therefore offered that the European Commission hosts an online pledging event. An online pledging event to fund the development of a vaccine against COVID-19, this based on the initiatives, the global initiatives we know very well, for example CEPI (the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation) or the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board. We need solidarity among EU Member States, but we also need solidarity across the globe.

Thank you.