Finance ministers of eurozone countries agreed on Thursday evening to to make €500 billion ($547 billion) available “immediately” to stimulate the EU economy that is hit hard by the covid-19 pandemic.
The decision came after hours of deliberation between the representatives of the 19 eurozone countries.
Eurogroup President Mario Centeno said in a press conference after the meeting: “Today we are responding to the demands of our people for a Europe that is helping. We did it after 16 hours of discussions.” He added that the measures agreed were unthinkable a few weeks ago.
Germany’s Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said that the agreement is a “great day of European solidarity.”
Scholz said that the plan provides “three strong answers” to the crisis, including aid to small and mid-sized businesses through the European Investment Bank, short-term work programs for the labor force, and loans to affected states through the European Stability Mechanism.
Europe has proven itself to be “a match” for the crisis, said French representative Bruno La Maire, saying that EU finance ministers reached an “excellent accord” on fighting the recession caused by the pandemic.
Greece’s Finance Minister Christos Staikouras described the decision as “a satisfactory agreement that offers new financial tools to deal with the unprecedented social and economic consequences of the spread of coronavirus”.
According to Staikouras, this is a new package of measures, both for tackling the current health crisis and for the subsequent reorganization of European economies.
In particular, according to the minister, the overall aim of this package of measures, totaling € 500 billion, is to strengthen health systems, boost liquidity in the real economy, reduce unemployment and boost social cohesion.
In terms of tackling the health crisis, increased funding from companies through the European Investment Bank, the implementation of a temporary job security program, and the activation of the Preventive Credit Line in the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), adapted to current health needs.
As for the necessary restart of the economy, it is planned to launch a recovery fund, financed by “innovative financial instruments”, as well as the use of European funds, through the rearrangement of the next Multiannual Financial Framework.
This agreement, Staikouras said, comes to complement the positive recent decisions of the eurozone finance ministers for fiscal flexibility and the actions of the European Central Bank to boost liquidity.