EU Commissioner warns of impact of coronavirus on EU economy

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EU Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said the Covid-19 epidemic will have an impact on the Union’s economy but said he was above all concerned about the Asian countries. Italy, hard hit, should benefit from more flexible European fiscal rules.

At a press conference in Brussels, Paolo Gentiloni, European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs, confirmed that the coronavirus epidemic will impact the European economy. On Wednesday 26 February, the European Commission held a meeting to assess the social and economic situation of each member country.

“All international organizations are very careful in their forecasts,” said the Italian official, who in particular expressed his concern for the developing Asian countries. “The only thing we are sure of is that there will be an influence on the economy,” he said.

He said, without giving a precise forecast, that the EU “is monitoring the situation closely every day, and remains in contact with international economic organizations”. However, on February 24, an American epidemiologist had predicted that 40 to 70% of the world population would be infected, fearing that the virus “would not be finally controlled”.

On February 13, a statement from the European Commission said there was “growing concern” about the virus’s impact on public health and economic activity, albeit with more limited consequences globally than for China.

Flexible budgetary rules

Speaking of the sudden spread of Covid-19 in northern Italy, Gentiloni followed up on the request of his compatriot Mario Turco, Undersecretary of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers. The latter asked that Italy be able to benefit from a certain flexibility in European budgetary rules.

“In our Stability and Growth Pact, as we know it today, flexibility clauses are provided for and relate to so-called exceptional circumstances,” replied Paolo Gentiloni during the same press conference.

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