Coronavirus

Thierry Breton Says EU Needs $1.7T For COVID-19 Relief 

EU Commissioner Thierry Breton

A $1.7 trillion relief package will likely be necessary to help the European Union economically rebound from the coronavirus pandemic, the EU’s industry chief Thierry Breton said on Tuesday (April 21).

French television station BFM TV aired an interview with Breton, the French European commissioner for internal market and services, according to a Reuters report. Breton said he was collaborating with Italian Economics Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni to devise the right kind of relief package. They were talking about a figure of around $1.7 trillion (€1.6 trillion), which is about 10 percent of the EU GDP, Breton said.

No agreements have been made about how the relief plan would be financed and the final figure is also tentative. Leaders are planning to discuss the matter further when they hold a remote meeting on Thursday (April 23), officials and diplomats told Reuters. 

Spain has said a relief fund should be about €1.5 trillion.

Breton also called for a “Marshall Plan” in order to help European tourism bounce back. The Marshall Plan — also known as the European Recovery Program — was a U.S. assistance program to help Western Europe following World War II.

Europe’s travel industry could plummet as much as 70 percent and it could be the slowest sector to recuperate in the 27-nation bloc, Breton told a European Parliament committee via video link on Tuesday (April 21), according to a Talking Points Memo report.

He added that the tourism sector was hit first by the coronavirus pandemic and recovery won’t come fast. The European tourism industry makes up 50 percent of worldwide travel, he said. Further, Italy and Spain were especially hard-hit and both economies are economically dependent on tourism.

“I certainly hope that we can start traveling again, despite the restrictions, and as soon as this summer,” Breton said, adding that he is organizing a tourism summit in September to “reinvent the tourism sector of tomorrow.”

Some European countries are starting to make tentative plans to ease social distancing requirements for the COVID-19 pandemic over the next few months. 

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