During these times of crisis, across the European Union, countries, regions and cities are stretching out a helping hand to neighbours and assistance is given to those most in need: donations of protective equipment such as masks, cross-border treatments of ill patients and bringing stranded citizens home. This is European solidarity at its best.
Upon request, the European Commission coordinates assistance, such as the provision of personal protective material, repatriation flights from beyond Europe, and co-finances the delivery of assistance from one country to another.
With its Emergency Response Coordination Centre, the Commission stands ready 24/7 to assist all countries, in Europe and beyond, who ask for specific support.
Requests for medical and protective equipment
Various countries inside and outside Europe requested to receive additional protective equipment, particularly medical masks, through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. The Commission relayed these requests to all EU Member States in order to swiftly offer assistance. Initiatives such as these, complement the Commission coordination activities with Member States in the area of joint procurements for urgently needed supplies.
Creating a European reserve of medical equipment
On 19 March, the European Commission decided to create a strategic rescEU stockpile – a common European reserve – of emergency medical equipment, such as ventilators, protective masks and laboratory supplies to help EU countries face the coronavirus pandemic. The Commission will finance 100% of the stockpile, which is to be hosted by one or several Member States. The hosting State or States will be responsible for procuring the equipment with the support of the Commission. The Emergency Response Coordination Centre will manage the distribution of the equipment to ensure that it quickly goes where it is needed the most.
On 27 March, the Commission proposed to allocate €30 million more to the first ever rescEU stockpile of medical equipment, in addition to the initially announced €50 million, bringing the total budget to €80 million.
Bringing stranded citizens home
The Commission is helping Member States to coordinate assistance and consular repatriation operations of EU citizens from across the world, wherever they may be.
Once a Member State activates the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, the Commission’s Emergency Response Coordination Centre coordinates all actions with the European External Action Service and with Member States. The Commission can also co-finance up to 75% of the transportation costs. Non-EU citizens can also benefit from this assistance.
On 27 March, the Commission proposed to make some extra €45 million available from the EU budget to help Member States repatriate EU nationals.
Since the beginning of the outbreak, around 250,000 people have been flown back to Europe thanks to flights organised by the Member States. In addition, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism has facilitated the repatriation of almost 5,000 EU citizens to Europe from China, Japan, the U.S., Morocco, Tunisia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Egypt, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama, Cuba, Honduras, Mexico, Cabo Verde, Georgia, Gambia, Senegal, Haiti and Malaysia.
Assistance outside the EU
EU mobilises immediate support for the Western Balkans
On 30 March, the European Commission announced that it will provide immediate support of up to €38 million for the Western Balkans to tackle the health emergency. €374 million has also been reallocated from the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance to help the socio-economic recovery of the region. The Western Balkan countries will receive assistance to cover their immediate needs of medical devices and personal equipment, such as ventilators, laboratory kits, masks, goggles, gowns, and safety suits, and support their recovery.
The European Union stands by its Eastern partners
The European Commission stands by Eastern Partner countries and has announced the reallocation of €140 million for the most immediate needs in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine, as part of the global response to the coronavirus outbreak. In addition, the Commission will also redirect the use of existing instruments worth up to €700 million to help support the countries throughout the COVID-19 outbreak. These funds will support the supply of medical devices and personal equipment and to support businesses and jobs.
Early assistance to China
At the outset of the coronavirus outbreak in China, the European Commission acted swiftly and in full solidarity with China. It coordinated and co-financed the delivery of emergency medical supplies through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. Over 56 tonnes of personal protective equipment (protective clothing, disinfectant and medical masks) were delivered to China, provided by France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Estonia, Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovenia.
China is reciprocating the received assistance by delivering critical medical equipment to the most hard-hit EU Member States.
The European Commission provides strategic funding for initiatives and operations aimed at mitigating the economic effects of the coronavirusCOVID-19 and to save lives across the world.
The global preparedness and response plan
The Commission has mobilised more than €400 million to boost global preparedness, prevention and containment of the virus inside and outside Europe. With A part of this EU contribution, the EU will support the World Health Organization (WHO), in particular the global preparedness and response plan.
Assistance to Greece
Greece’s borders are the EU’s common external borders. The European Commission supports Greece in dealing with migratory pressures resulting from population movements to its eastern, land and sea borders.
The Commission has proposed draft amendments to the budget – €350 million of financial assistance to Greece, to add to the €350 million that is already being deployed, in line with the commitment of President von der Leyen during her visit to Greece at the beginning of March.
The increased funding will lead inter alia to the construction of five multi-purpose reception and identification centres in the Greek islands in 2020. The five reception centres will ensure proper accommodation for third-country nationals until their asylum application is examined.Asylum seekers who are not granted international protection should be returned to their countries of origin.
The support aims to help Greece to prevent and slow down the potential spread of the Coronavirus in the migrant camps.
The funding will also go towards services and emergency items (e.g. food but also non—food items) in the new camps, additional medical teams, increased support to the Greek Asylum Service, and the deployment of border guards and police officers at the external borders of Greece.
Finally, through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, 17 Member States, have offered more than 90,000 items of in-kind assistance to Greece, such as shelter, health and sanitation items. Some of these can also be used to support efforts in preventing a coronavirus outbreak.