Ursula von der Leyen has laid out plans to borrow and spend €100bn to stop firms in the EU laying off staff during the coronavirus pandemic, and has apologised to the Italian people for the bloc’s lack of solidarity.
The president of the European commission said she was confident the 27 member states would back her scheme, describing the EU’s budget as the Marshall plan for the crisis, in reference to the post-second world war fund that rebuilt Europe.
The EU’s executive branch is proposing to borrow from the international markets and make loans to member state governments to allow them to fund short-time working schemes, under which employees work reduced hours with some of their salary paid by the state.
Von der Leyen said that such schemes, including Germany’s Kurzarbeit system, had ensured the northern member states had been well placed to rebuild after the financial crisis in 2008.
“Will it be enough? We are talking about €100bn of loans,” she said. “It is an enormous amount of money …This is a massive support of the European Union that is laid forward here.”
Von der Leyen said the scheme, called Sure, was an example of “European solidarity in action”, following criticism of a lack of support by EU member states for those most affected by the spread of Covid-19, including Italy and Spain.