The Commission publishes guidance on cross-border treatment of patients and deployment of medical personnel and further relaxes EU state aid rules, Italy adopts €400 billion liquidity package to support Italian enterprises
- Commission President von der Leyen published an op-ed detailing her vision of a European way out of the COVID-19 crisis. The President writes that Europe was initially blindsided, getting off to a wrong start in the fight against the virus. Von der Leyen calls for European solidarity – and an amended budget. According to the piece, the money spent today was an investment in the future of the EU, and a new, revised budget must reflect that.
- The Commission has published guidance on the cross-border treatment of patients and deployment of medical personnel. Cooperation should be used to ease pressure on hospitals. Additional support can be made available through the Health Security Committee, the Civil Protection Mechanism, through arrangements for the reimbursement of healthcare costs, bi-lateral and regional cooperation agreements, and the sharing of knowledge and expertise.
- The Commission will present its preliminary exit strategy from the COVID-19 epidemic on Wednesday, 8th According to POLITICO, this has set in motion a series of comments from the European Parliament on how to include (or, exclude) the Green Deal. Two letters have been sent to the Commission in March, one advocating for continued commitment to the Deal, one asking to lower ambitions (source: POLITICO).
- DG SANTE held a Health Security Committee on 3rd April, discussing recommendations on health system resilience, ECDC guidance on face masks for the public, an exit strategy, digital solutions in healthcare, and cross border collaboration.
- The Commission has published an amendment to the current temporary state-aid framework to further relax laws on state-aid to companies developing medical products to fight the COVID-19 outbreak. Products included are vaccines; medical devices such as ventilators; protective equipment; and disinfectants. The rule also applies to data collection as well as testing facilities and related infrastructure.
- Check all Commission state-aid decisions here.
- Last week, the Commission announced that it would scrap tariffs and issue VAT exemptions on the import of medical goods to facilitate the fight against COVID-19. The corresponding decision can now be accessed here.
- The EP’s INTA Committee has expressed concern about the EU’s export authorisation scheme for medical equipment. While the Commission insists that the measure is not a blanket restriction, the signing parties of a letter to Commissioner Hogan said the scheme could turn into an export ban in practice. That would hurt countries in Africa and South America in their fight against the virus, reads the letter, demanding swift clarification on the effects of the rule.
- The EP’s ENVI Committee has drafted a new timetable with revised dates. According to the document seen by POLITICO, the EP’s position on a new EU chemical strategy for sustainability is expected to be presented to the plenary in July and will then feed into a planned Commission strategy. MEPs have until 21st April to table their amendments, with a Committee vote in the days after (source: POLITICO).
- MEP Carlo Calenda (S&D, IT) has spoken to POLITICO about drafting the EP’s report on the Commission’s industrial strategy. According to the MEP, the report draws on lessons from the current crisis. One key takeaway was that the Commission should not hesitate to allow large mergers, meaning they should prioritise keeping strategic assets in Europe over stricter competition rules.
- The Digital Service Act will not be voted on in July, but September, according to an updated timetable. The draft report by MEP Alex Agius Saliba (MT, S&D) will be discussed on 4th May, with amendments to be tabled by 14th COVID-19 will also influence the content of the DSA, said Saliba, given that the current crisis shines light on issues such as fake news, unsafe products, and bad working conditions for platform workers (source: POLITICO).
Council (and other ministerial bodies)
- The transport ministers of France, Germany, Italy, and Spain have written a letter urging the Commission to protect the EU’s transport industry. According to the letter, the upcoming economic downturn and market volatility risks have left the industry exposed to predatory practices and foreign takeovers. In order to prevent that, the ministers call for a transport industrial policy and control of relevant non-EU investments.
- The Croatian Council Presidency has sent national delegations draft conclusions on Shaping Europe’s Digital Future. According to the text, the Commission and Member States should learn from the current crisis and use insights to implement future digital policies, notably in the areas of e-health, e-government, data sharing, and broadband connectivity.
Court of Justice of the EU
- The EU courts in Luxembourg had to postpone all hearings as from 16th March, but the judges kept their activities going. In a press release issued Friday, the Court of Justice of the EU said that 86 cases had been resolved and that 52 new cases had been brought.
World Trade Organisation
- The World Trade Organisation has issued a reporton the trade of medical products and related tariffs during the current pandemic. The report outlines that the ten biggest buyers / producers account for two thirds of global imports / three quarters of global exports. According to the report, the WTO made a significant contribution to reduce or remove tariffs on these products.
- The Word Trade Organisation and the World Customs Organisation have pledgedto work together to ensure the trade of essential goods. Director-General Azvedo (WTO) and Secretary-General Dr. Mikuriya (WCO) have promised to establish a coordinated approach to initiatives that facilitate cross-border trade so that critical goods can move quickly. Member States have already been invited to share information regarding measures taken to increase transparency.
Food and Agriculture Organisation
- In an interview, Dominique Burgeon, Director of FAO’s Emergency and Resilience Division, explains the particular challenges COVID-19 poses in vulnerable communities already coping with high levels of hunger due to pre-existing crises and how the Organisation is gearing up to help.
- The Robert Koch Institute in Germany has launched an app that uses fitness data of users, collected via wearable devices such as the Fitbit, to track the spread of COVID-19. The collection will be anonymous, asking for age, weight, height, and health-related data such as sleeping patters, heart rates, and temperature, as well as the users’ postcode for location tracking. The country has now asked its citizens to donate their data.
- In a press conference, President Conte announced a liquidity package of €400 billion for Italian enterprises, as well as stricter anti-takeover rules. The financial support will come in the form of €200 billion guarantees for loans, as well as €200 billion guarantees for investments stimulating exports.
- The Commission, together with the European Investment Bank, announced that it has unlocked €8 billion to help SMEs during the crisis. For measure, €1 billion had been provided by the European Fund for Strategic Investment in order to provide guarantees to bank loans to encourage lending to SMEs who need financial support due to the outbreak of COVID-19.
Medical Equipment and Vaccine Development
- The European Data Protection Board (EDPD)’s chief Wiewiórowski has called for a pan-European COVID-19 tracking app, after several countries launched their own apps. The statement said that the use of temporary broadcast identifiers and Bluetooth technology seemed to be useful and in line with privacy needs, but that a mobile application coordinated at EU level was preferable.
- On 3 April, the EDPB met to discuss the processing of personal data to fight COVID-19 (draft agenda). The Board is expected to issue guidelines on the matter, following a statement of Andrea Jelinek, Chair of the EDPB: “The Board will prioritise providing guidance on the following issues: use of location data and anonymisation of data; processing of health data for scientific and research purposes and the processing of data by technologies used to enable remote working. The EDPB will adopt a horizontal approach and plans to issue general guidance with regard to the appropriate legal bases and applicable legal principles.”
- Tech Travel: The European tech travel industry has asked to be treated the same way as hotels and airlines when it comes to financial and regulatory support during the COVID-19 crisis. Emmanuel Mounier of lobby group EU travel tech reminded policy makers that if people stop travelling, platforms such as expedia, skyscanner, and booking.com would run out of business. Some EU countries have already announced plans to allow the tourism industry to issue vouchers instead of cash reimbursements for travels cancelled due to restrictions following COVID-19 (source: POLITICO).
- The European farming sector, represented by Copa-Cogeca, has asked the Commission to postpone its work on the Farm-to-Fork strategy and the Green Deal in light of the current crisis. In a letter to the European Parliament, the lobby group asked for an inception impact assessment before taking any steps on Farm-to-Fork or the Green Deal. The leaked document has caused concern among European environmentalists (source: ENDS Europe).