European Union national leaders told the bloc’s finance ministers Thursday to draw up new measures to tackle the devastating economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic after failing to bridge major differences over how best to share the debt burden.
During six hours of talks by video conference, the leaders also called on the EU’s powerful executive arm, the European Commission, to draw up a strategy for resuscitating their choked economies once lockdowns and other health measures are lifted.
The talks came as the death toll in Europe from COVID-19 soared well beyond 13,000 people. Spain has just prolonged a state of emergency, while French President Emmanuel Macron launched “Operation Resilience,” a military-backed response to combat the illness.
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“This crisis is exceptional and unique and requires a very strong answer,” EU Council President Charles Michel told reporters after the summit. Euro zone finance ministers will have to continue working and make proposals on tools “within two weeks,” he said.
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In a joint statement, the leaders said those economic “proposals should take into account the unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 shock affecting all our countries.”
As the virus has taken hold, the Commission — the guardian of the EU’s rule book — has permitted unprecedented border and economic measures so that embattled member countries like Italy and Spain, but also many others, can save supply chains and businesses.
5:35Coronavirus outbreak: How long social distancing could last
Coronavirus outbreak: How long social distancing could last
But while the leaders all acknowledge the extent of the crisis and the need to support Italy in particular,