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Coronavirus: What the EU is doing and what is missing

European Parliament

Because of allegations in social media that the EU is abandoning its citizens in regard to the corona pandemic, the PIRATES in the European Parliament have compiled EU actions addressing the Coronavirus (see list below). MEP Patrick Breyer (Pirate Party Germany) calls for an additional, digital dimension of managing this crisis:

“Citizens who need to stay at home and do not have Internet access are cut off from digital information and assistance services as well as from teleworking and tele-learning. In the face of this pandemic, Europe needs to guarantee all citizens the right to broadband Internet access. The implementation of the corresponding EU directive (Communications Code), originally planned for the end of 2020, now needs to be brought forward as an urgent measure. The fact that tens of thousands of households in Europe are still unable to obtain broadband Internet access and are only entitled to a telephone connection has intolerable consequences in times of crisis.”

Anja Hirschel, the Commissioner for Digitisation of the Pirate Party Germany, adds: “It is paradoxical that the same government which has been neglecting the building of broadband networks for years, is now expecting citizens do their work from home via the Internet. The current affairs remind usof the immense importance of the Internet for our lives. For many years now, we PIRATES have been calling for greater efforts to extend Internet connectivity and also for a fundamental right to ‘digital participation’ [1].”

The Pirates are also calling on telecommunications providers to temporarily remove the limits on data volume for mobile and Internet contracts for the duration of the pandemic and to make free phone calls possible [2], as is already the case in other countries [3].

What the EU is doing in the coronavirus crisis:

  • EU Investment Initiative as a response to Coronavirus: Providing 37 billion euros of public investment to re-channel cohesion policy funds where it is most needed
  • Providing 47.5 million euros from Horizon-2020-fund to finance 17 health research projects on the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Export authorisation scheme to restrict the export of protective medical equipment
  • Providing 100 billion euros of bank capital by the ECB to help maintain the flow of credit to the economy and fight the fallout from the spread of the Coronavirus
  • Control mechanisms to ensure reliable provision of healthcare goods
  • Creating incentives for textile companies to produce protective medical equipment
  • Extension of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism (rescEU) to buy medical equipment
  • Accelerated joint procurement for medical testing kits and respiratory ventilators
  • Guidelines to national governments on border measures
  • Approval of additional national support measures such as wage subsidies, suspension of payments of corporate taxes and value added taxes or social contributions
  • Adoption of state aid rules to enable member states to cover acute liquidity needs and  to support companies, which are facing bankruptcy as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak
  • Approval of exceptional spending, such as expenditure in the healthcare sector and targeted support measures for companies and workers
  • Adjust or suspend the fiscal efforts required from member states in case of negative economic growth
  • Legislative proposal to temporarily relieve airlines of empty flights, so that tey can keep their take-off and landing slots
  • Providing 1 billion euros as a guarantee to the European Investment Fund to incentivise banks to provide liquidity to SMEs
  • Promote short-time work schemes, upskilling and reskilling programmes
  • Prepare a legislative proposal for a European Unemployment Reinsurance Scheme to help preserve jobs
  • Using the European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund to invest in their healthcare systems of the member states
  • Providing 179 million euros through the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund to support dismissed workers and self-employed
  • Providing 800 million euros by extending the scope of the EU Solidarity Fund by also including a public health crisis within its scope
  • Setting up of network of European tourism and travel industry associations to exchange information and evaluate the impact of Coronavirus

Note: A lot of other needed actions are outside of the EU competence, such as health and emergency measures. In addition, the EU is much more bound by its budget than member states because it cannot deficit spend.

[1] https://www.piratenpartei.de/files/2019/05/PositionenEU2019.pdf
[2] https://piratenpartei-bw.de/2020/03/14/coronavirus-telekommunikationsanbieter-sollen-begrenzung-des-datenvolumens-aufheben-und-kostenloses-telefonieren-ermoeglichen/
[3] https://www.t-mobile.com/news/t-mobile-update-on-covid-19-response



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