Coronavirus pandemic: is Europe doing enough?

In a bid to combat the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, the ECB has announced new loans to banks to support the flow of credit into the economy, but has left the base interest rate unchanged. Brussels has announced a financial aid package of 7.5 billion euros, which is to be increased to 25 billion later on. Commentators have doubts about whether these measures will be adequate.

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Irish Independent (IE) /

ECB must not leave Italy in the lurch

As with the 2012 financial crisis, the ECB must do everything it can to support countries particularly hard hit by the virus, the Irish Independent argues:

“If the downturn in Italy is deep and/or sustained, its government may no longer be able to borrow to fight the coronavirus outbreak and keep public services running. That cannot be allowed to happen. ... In mid-2012, the last president of the ECB, Mario Draghi, contained the eurozone crisis, 30 months after it started raging, when he declared that the bank would 'do whatever it takes'. His successor, Christine Lagarde, needs to be clear that she will also do whatever it takes, and for as long as it takes, to ensure Italy and all the other countries which use the euro can borrow the money that they will need.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Central banks can't solve this crisis

Central banks are the wrong addressees when it comes to combating a health crisis, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung writes:

“As loud as the call for a monetary policy response to the coronavirus crisis may be, the available options are very limited. Central banks can neither repair the disruption of global value chains, nor can they fuel consumption if people are afraid to leave their homes. A monetary policy of doing nothing may require courage right now, especially as it exposes banks to the accusation of not lifting a finger at a time when help is most needed. ... In recent years people may have grown used to central banks always rushing to the rescue when a bad scenario was looming. But anyone who expects something similar today is misjudging the nature of the crisis.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Macron wakes up sleeping EU

Europe's response to the crisis must be "strong and fast", French President Emmanuel Macron demanded yesterday. That's the way to jolt the EU awake, La Stampa comments approvingly:

“A 'strong' European response to a virus that needs no travelling papers: this is Emmanuel Macron's slap in the face for a dithering Europe. ... The French president's relations with Italy have gone through many ups and downs. Not yesterday. From the Elysée Palace came a clear message of solidarity with Italy - without ever mentioning our country by name. The ball is now in the court of Europe and the West. Macron called on the G7 and Donald Trump to take action. But what can we expect from a Washington that has just closed its borders to EU citizens? It's up to Brussels to find the appropriate response.”

The Spectator (GB) /

Too little, too slow

The EU's aid package is a drop in the ocean, The Spectator admonishes:

“A headline 25 euro billion fund has been agreed to fight the virus, but on closer inspection only 7.5 billion euros will be released now with the rest to be made available later. That is a fraction of what the UK is spending for an economy more than five times larger. A 'review' of state aid rules will be launched. And some flexibility in fiscal rules will be considered. It is hardly urgent or inspiring stuff. By the time the pen-pushers in Brussels get around to doing something, we will either all be infected, or the virus will have burnt itself out.”

El País (ES) /

Nothing new

Those who try to sell old instruments as new ones squander vital trust, El País comments in annoyance:

“The flexibility of budgetary deficit limits in the event of 'exceptional and temporary' adverse circumstances is nothing new. It has been written in the text of the Stability Pact since it was first adopted in 1997. So what is officially being announced with great pomp and circumstance is nothing more than the obvious and automatic application of measures provided for in the Pact: in the event of a surprise crisis, additional spending and an unscheduled increase in the deficit will be tolerated. Governments should not take the citizens for fools ... The presumed package of 7.5 (and potentially up to 25) billion euros raises expectations for new and substantial investments. But this is not fresh money but the reallocated remains from projects that have not been implemented.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

The EU needs more power

Le Figaro calls for more Europe:

“The EU states must allow Europe to do much more. Firstly by giving it the means to coordinate a genuine aid and cooperation policy on healthcare for member countries. Brussels must help with the sending of equipment and healthcare workers to the areas worst affected by the epidemic. Secondly, it is time to lay the groundwork for medical research at the level of all 27 states and to ensure true independence in healthcare. It is more urgent than ever to transfer production of the active ingredients of medicines and vaccines back to the EU. With industrial and financial globalisation, but also the globalisation of viruses, healthcare has become a paramount issue of European sovereignty.”

Expresso (PT) /

Don't repeat the mistakes of 2008

With the last financial and economic crisis in mind Expresso calls for concerted and comprehensive action from Brussels:

“Europe must prepare a collective response so that each country won't have to face the crisis alone with different instruments, as was the case in the 2008 crisis. ... Europe must now develop a plan for a pan-European economic recovery and be prepared for the crisis when it comes. ... If the same mistakes are made as in 2008, we can forget the European project. The spirits that have plagued us for more than a decade will seize power once and for all. ”