Eurogroup Agrees Rescue Package To Mitigate Covid-19 Downturn

Eurozone finance ministers agreed an emergency plan to mitigate the downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic after marathon discussions, on Thursday.

“This response contains bold and ambitious proposals that would have been unthinkable just a few weeks ago,” Eurogroup President Mário Centeno said.

“We can all remember the response to the financial crisis of the last decade when Europe did too little, too late,” Centeno added. “This time around, it is different.”

Finance ministers agreed to establish Pandemic Crisis Support package with a size close to EUR 240 billion, which is about 2 percent of GDP. This will be available to all members of the European Stability Mechanism, a bailout fund.

Further, the European Investment Bank would create a pan-European shield which aims to guarantee EUR 200 billion loans, with a focus on small and medium-sized firms.

Excellent agreement between EU finance ministers on the economic response to coronavirus, French finance minister Bruno Le Maire said on Twitter after the talks.

He said EUR 500 billion will be made available immediately. Europe stands up to face the seriousness of the crisis, he added.

This aid package presented by the Eurogroup leaves the question whether any of the countries will be satisfied, Carsten Brzeski and Bert Colijn, ING economists said.

Concerns along the lines of not enough or too much burden sharing will remain after this compromise, they said.

Tonight’s package leaves enough undone to do a next season of the Eurogroup tv series sooner or later, economists added.

Eurozone is hit severely by the Covid-19 pandemic that saw thousands of lives lost in big countries such as Italy, Spain and France. Countries in the region have imposed lockdowns thus halting most economic activity.

European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde reportedly said the euro area economy could shrink over 10 percent this year, which is the worst on record, if the lockdowns continue over an extended period of time.

The Bank of France this week estimated that the French economy is set to shrink 6 percent in the first quarter due to the Covid-19 disruption, thus pushing the economy into a technical recession. The predicted decline is the worst since 1945.

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