Instead of holding their traditional March European Council summit, the EU27 will hold a teleconference as part of their effort to bring the virus under control. They took the dramatic decision today during an emergency pandemic discussion to make a collective decision on previously agreed coronavirus provisions. An EU Council statement said: “The ordinary European Council scheduled for March 26-27 has been postponed to a later date.
“EU leaders also agreed to hold another video conference next week on the situation regarding the COVID-19 outbreak.”
They also agreed a five-prong strategy to stabilise the bloc as the crisis rumbles on, with many national shutdowns expected to last into next month.
Special work streams have been established to ensure medical and other vital supplies can continue to flow through the single market despite a number of travel bans being implemented, procure healthcare equipment, research cures and vaccines, contain the virus and rescue stranded citizens.
“We reaffirmed the need to work together and to do everything necessary to tackle the crisis and its consequences,” EU leaders said in a statement.
“The priority is the health of our citizens.”
Meanwhile, the European Commission has been plunged into institutional chaos after its lead negotiator in the UK trade talks was diagnosed with coronavirus.
Michel Barnier revealed the news this morning via social media, insisting he is healthy and in high spirits.
He said: “I am doing well and in good spirits. I am following all the necessary instructions, as is my team.
“For all those affected already, and for all those currently in isolation, we will get through this together.”
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His team of officials have been ordered to self-isolate and will undergo precautionary tests.
It emerged top eurocrat Ursula von der Leyen will also take a test after meeting Mr Barnier little under two weeks ago.
Her spokesman said: “President von der Leyen last met Michel Barnier almost two weeks ago to the day.
“She has no symptoms and therefore is continuing to work. She will be tested obviously in view of this announcement but for the moment her activities continue exactly as foreseen as they do for the rest of the College.
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“The operations of the Commission continue for the moment as normal but obviously all staff who have been in contact with Michel Barnier are asked to take the necessary precautions.”
The European Parliament has also organised a special plenary to vote on measures proposed by the Commission.
In an extraordinary meeting, MEPs will be asked to support the bloc’s plans to turn on the spending taps by releasing €37 billion to assist in the fight against coronavirus.
They will also vote on loosening airline rules to ensure carriers are partially protected through the current travel bans.
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