European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen today called on EU governments to show “tangible European solidarity” and rally behind an unemployment reinsurance scheme supporting the countries worst-hit by the coronavirus crisis.
The scheme, dubbed SURE, would require countries to put up €25 billion in guarantees so the Commission could issue debt of up to €100 billion on capital markets and distribute loans for aid to employers that would otherwise lay off workers.
“The most important part is to keep people in the companies,” von der Leyen said. “It enables companies to return to the market with renewed vigor,” she added, “when the engine will restart, when the world economy will restart.”
She emphasized the program would be open to all 27 EU countries and said, “The way it is financed is tangible European solidarity.”
Suggesting that EU countries would back the idea, von der Leyen said that northern countries that have resisted the idea of collective debt issuance “were the first ones to introduce these state-funded short-term work schemes” and had a “very good experience with it” during the 2008 financial crisis.
The proposal will be discussed in the Eurogroup meeting of finance ministers next Tuesday. “We’re confident of quick adoption,” she said.
The Commission president has been discussing the scheme with some national leaders, including Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, and stressed they “were interested, they were open and they were positive.”
She added that the bloc’s next budget should be leveraged to respond to the crisis. “We want to shape the EU budget in such a way that it is a crucial part of our recovery plan,” she said.
“Many are calling right now for something which is called a ‘Marshall Plan.’ Well, I think the European budget should be the Marshall Plan we are laying out together as a European Union for the European people.”