Cohesion ministers welcome the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative
Minister for Development, Strategic Projects and Cohesion Zvonko Černač today participated in a video conference of Cohesion Policy ministers. The ministers unanimously welcomed rapid response of the European Commission and the joint measures it put forward to help EU Member States tackle the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Slovenia called on the Commission to allow maximum flexibility in developing and implementing Cohesion Policy measures.
On 13 March 2020, the European Commission released a legislative proposal to amend the regulations governing the European Structural and Investment Funds and the EU Solidarity Fund to mobilize investments in the health care systems of the Member States and in other sectors of their economies in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The ministers welcomed the response of the Commission and the proposed amendments to the regulations to make available Cohesion Policy funds to help the Member States’ health care sector, the economy and the labour market overcome the unprecedented challenges related to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The ministers also underlined the need for the Commission to announce as soon as possible an additional aid package that would ensure extra flexibility, including in the area of delivering State Aid.
Minister Černač told his counterparts that Slovenia was preparing an extensive aid package worth between two and three billion euros to help the economy and Slovenian population to fight the effects of the coronavirus crisis. He underlined that an important bulk of this aid package would come from the European Structural and Investment Funds.
‘’Slovenia is working on reallocating the funds under the national Operational Programme that will not be spent due to the crisis caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. The reallocated funds will be used to keep businesses in operation, protect and safeguard jobs and support the public health sector,’’ explained the minister, estimating that some EUR 200 or 300 million available in the current period will be redirected to help cushion the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The minister told that the EUR 200 million worth of prepayments from the Brussels to which Slovenia was eligible under the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative would be channelled to areas where they would be most needed.
Mr Černač also welcomed the proposed amendment of the regulation on the EU Solidarity Fund which consisted of extending the scope of the EU Solidarity Fund to include public health emergencies in addition to natural disasters. This will help both Member States and accession countries meet immediate needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The minister concluded by calling on the Commission to allow for maximum flexibility in simplifying administrative procedures. ‘’Each day counts,’’ he said. He also invited the Commission to revisit the already identified development priorities for the period beyond 2020 in view of the recent dramatic change so as to help Member States mitigate the socio-economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the hand and support the long-term and sustainable growth across the Union on the other.
The coronavirus knows no borders. A unified, rapid and coordinated action across the EU is therefore a must.