Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis

Press remarks after virtual ECOFIN meeting

Brussels, 16 April 2020

Today’s meeting of European finance ministers focused on the EU’s response to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.  

Firstly, there is no getting around the fact that the economic fallout of the pandemic is profound.

We will have to deal with a deep recession this year.

Our first priority remains protecting jobs and incomes, keeping businesses afloat and making sure that governments have the support they need.

The €540 billion support package agreed by the Eurogroup will be an important milestone to help us achieve these objectives.

It comes on top of all the national and EU measures taken, including flexibility within fiscal and state aid rules.

We have made use of every available euro in the EU’s structural and investment funds to fight this crisis.  

Secondly, we proposed a support tool to mitigate unemployment risks – or SURE. It is essential that this comes into effect as soon as possible to help protect people’s jobs and incomes.

I appreciate the ministers’ support today to finalise without delay the legislative process on SURE and other measures agreed last week.

We are now working on the next phase: exit and recovery.

Yesterday, the Commission presented the joint European Roadmap towards lifting containment measures.

The extraordinary steps and restrictions that Member States and the EU have taken are working.

They have helped to slow down the spread of the virus and saved lives. Ministers agreed that this coordination work must continue.

This will pave the way for unprecedented investment as part of a comprehensive recovery plan.

As President von de Leyen said earlier today, we will need massive investment to jumpstart our economies.

That is why Europe needs a powerful EU budget. In our view, an ambitious and well-resourced MFF should be the central part of our recovery plan.

We will propose targeted changes to the MFF to make this possible, and also update the 2020 Commission work programme to make sure that our political priorities focus on the recovery.

In addition, especially in times of crisis it is important to coordinate our policies.

Here, the European Semester will play a central role.

The Commission intends to propose country-specific recommendations in May.

These will be refocused to capture the most pressing investment and reform needs in this new economic environment.

We want a package that supports national efforts to fight the pandemic as much as possible – and help put our economy back on track to sustainable and inclusive growth.

Finally, I would like to say a few words on banks.

Together with the wider financial sector, banks have a key role in cushioning the impact of the crisis to the real economy.

Ministers stressed the importance of banks continuing to finance European companies and households.

This time, the financial sector is clearly a part of the solution.

I acknowledge the major efforts that banks have made to provide liquidity to the real economy and people.

This must continue.

I invite banks to make full use of the flexibility within EU prudential and accounting laws.

By the end of the month, the Commission will present a communication to identify where this flexibility is available and how it can be used.

At the same time, we will present targeted legal proposals in line with recent decisions of the Basel committee. The aim is to free further lending capacity of banks.

I am ready to work with the financial sector to discuss further steps as we continue our fight against this pandemic and its impact on our lives and economies.

Thank you.