Economic Affairs Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni has warned that the whole EU project may collapse if member states fail to agree on a common response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“We are really at a crossroads. Either we are able to have a strong common response, but we are not there yet, or the entire project is at stake”, he pointed out on Friday.
Gentiloni added that a recovery fund should be created before the end of this fall to help EU members resolve their economic divergences.
The statement comes after member states reached a consensus on a joint response to COVID-19 even though they are still at odds over financial support that might be provided through the recovery fund.
In late April, Gentiloni told the French newspaper Les Echos that the EU needs “a fund worth about 10% of our GDP, that is about 1.5 trillion euros [1.6 trillion dollars]”.
“In my view, this recovery strategy should start in the second half of 2020, and not in December. It is urgent. Waiting for a year is out of the question. Subsidies will have to be focused on the hardest-hit areas and sectors”, he added, in an apparent reference to the impact of COVID-19.
The commissioner admitted that arriving at accommodation on how the fund will work will be a tricky task, adding, “the devil is in the details and one can say that there will probably be many devils, be they of the amount, the timing, or the composition of the fund”.
He spoke after Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte cautioned in a BBC interview that the EU risks failing apart amid the coronavirus pandemic, urging the bloc to “rise to the challenge” of what he referred to as "the biggest test since the Second World War". Conte called to make concerted efforts to extend much-needed aid to the countries worst hit by the spread of COVID-19.
As of Thursday, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Europe has climbed to more than 1.6 million, with over 150,000 fatalities, according to the World Health Organisation.