Ratas: EU cooperation key in fighting coronavirus spread ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Jüri Ratas at Thursday's video conference with EU leaders.
Jüri Ratas at Thursday's video conference with EU leaders. Source: Government Office

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) says that cooperation between European Union member states is key to protecting the health and economic security of European citizens, as well as their jobs. Ratas joined EU leaders in a teleconference on Thursday evening.

"A united co-operation between the EU member states helps us conquer the spread of the virus and take steps to stimulate the economy," he said, according to a government office press release.

The EU heads of state and government discussed cooperation in fighting the coronavirus, especially in securing the accessibility of medical equipment and promoting scientific research, including into developing a vaccine.

"Our greatest common worry is that right now there is not enough medical and personal protective equipment. The joint European Commission procurements are critically important, and it is essential that we receive these resources as quickly as possible," he continued.

The European Commission has initiated four joint procurements to date, with the first being signed in the next few days. Estonia will be able to order protective gloves and protective suits direct from the supplier, following the deal.

Ratas also highlighted that all member states should revoke any export restrictions they have set on personal protective and medical equipment, within the internal market.

Continued freedom of movement and goods

The Prime Minister stressed that European citizens must be able to return to their home countries without obstacles within the EU, and that all member states must assure the free movement of goods.

This week the European Commission published guidelines for member states on how to organize border management to guarantee so-called green corridors at border crossing points, for the free movement of goods in the EU. Green corridors refer to their being open, rather than any environmental aspect.

"As of now, 25 years after the start of the implementation of the Schengen Agreement, we are working together with all member states so that the health of our citizens will be cared for and that they would soon be able to travel within the EU again without restrictions," said Ratas.

The heads of state also talked about helping those citizens that have been entrapped in countries outside of the EU.

"The EU is supporting member states substantially in resolving the crisis. For instance, member states are receiving structural funds ahead of time, to mitigate the crisis effects. The European Investment Bank has sharply increased its support to enterprises, and the EU budget rules and state aid rules have been granted maximum flexibility. Further measures to support the economy of the Eurozone are being considered," noted Ratas.

The leaders of the member states adopted a joint statement on the need to act decisively and broadly at EU, regional and local level amid the coronavirus pandemic. They stressed that we must do everything necessary to protect citizens and conquer the crisis, while at the same time maintaining European values and its way of life.

Economic initiatives

The EU heads of state gave their ministers of finance the task of submitting proposals for new measures as quickly as possible. Estonia supports using the European Stability Mechanism to improve the creditworthiness of states, provided it has clear boundaries and a limit of use.

Ratas considered it important that, parallel to restricting the spread of the virus and dealing with its social and economic consequences, member states should also make joint preparations for restarting the European economy and exiting the crisis.

"The cooperation of all member states is very important in this. It is clear that we need a commonly agreed strategy for exiting the crisis and for this we ask the European Commission, along with the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, to put together a recovery plan that keeps in mind our strategic agenda, climate neutrality targets, as well as digital development," said Ratas.

Accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania

The EU heads of state and government also supported opening accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania.

"This is a decision of notable importance that shows that the EU is strong and united even at the more difficult moments. Both countries have done some good homework and implemented reforms. The doors of the EU are open to those who work for it and share the same values," Ratas noted.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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