European Parliament News: First six months of 2020: Covid-19, investment in recovery, climate

To tackle the fallout from Covid-19, Parliament has pushed for ambitious and sustainable solutions for people, the economy and the environment. Read our overview of the first half of 2020.

Coronavirus

By far the biggest challenge of the past months was the Covid-19 pandemic. The EU responded to the outbreak with immediate emergency measures and with long-term support for the recovery.

Emergency measures against Covid-19

Parliament approved initial measures to mitigate the impact of the crisis at the end of March. The focus of the first weeks was to slow the spread of the virus, provide EU-countries with medical equipment, promote research, boost European solidaritysupport the economyprotect jobs and repatriate tens of thousands of Europeans stranded around the world. Hundreds of billions of euros were made available.

Funds for vaccine and research

Parliament supported efforts to develop vaccines and effective treatments. The Commission rapidly allocated €48.25 million for 18 research projects with 151 research teams from across the EU and further funding worth hundreds of millions to develop treatments and diagnostics followed. MEPs stressed the need to ensure widespread access to affordable medicines.

Check out our timeline of EU measures against Covid-19

Parliament working remotely

The measures to contain the pandemic forced Parliament to limit physical meetings and work remotely. MEPs were still able to exercise democratic control and approve all necessary EU measures. For the first time, Parliament introduced a system to allow MEPs to vote without being physically present in plenary. Europe Day celebrations on 9 May, which this year marked 70 years since the Schuman declaration that led to the EU being founded, were mostly held online.

Recovery fund and EU long-term budget

The Parliament has pushed for a bold recovery package to help the EU bounce back from the pandemic and welcomed the €750 billion recovery plan along with a €1.1 trillion EU budget for the period 2021-2027 that the Commission proposed at the end of May. As negotiations on the long-term EU budget unfold, Parliament stressed the need to deliver on people’s expectations.

A sustainable recovery

The Green deal should be at the core of the EU’s Covid-19 recovery package, according to MEPs. Parliament sees the recovery plan as an opportunity to invest in a green, digital and resilient Europe. MEPs are pushing for the EU to become climate neutral by 2050. In January, Parliament welcomed the Commission’s proposal for a Green Deal, but called for more stringent greenhouse gas emission reductions (55% by 2030).

Parliament is also pushing for legally binding targets for biodiversity in Europe and for the fair, healthy and environmentally friendly production of food.

Safe travel and free movement

Border closures introduced to slow the spread of Covid-19 put a halt to freedom of movement in Europe. Parliament insisted on a coordinated EU effort to restore a functioning Schengen zone as soon as possible and stressed that the measures cannot discriminate against any Europeans based on nationality.

Covid-related travel restrictions have hit the European tourism industry hard and MEPs want support for this major player in the economy. The EU has also worked to make travelling as safe as possible and guarantee consumer rights.

Brexit

At the end of January, Parliament approved the UK’s withdrawal agreement, setting Brexit into motion, and said good bye to the 73 British MEPs. Talks are ongoing to determine how the UK and the EU will work together in the future.

EU-Vietnam trade deal

The EU-Vietnam free trade agreement, approved by Parliament in February, will eliminate virtually all tariffs over the course of a decade. As it includes binding rules on climate, labour and human rights, MEPs see it as a standard-setter for global trade.

Tackling disinformation

Fake news about Covid-19 can be as dangerous as the virus. MEPs support EU efforts to tackle disinformation, while protecting freedom of expression. In June, Parliament established a special committee to research foreign interference in all democratic processes in the EU, including disinformation.

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