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EU offers Italy "heartfelt apology" over coronavirus

16 April 2020, 21:40 CET
EU offers Italy "heartfelt apology" over coronavirus

Ursula von der Leyen - Photo EC

(BRUSSELS) - EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday expressed "a heartfelt apology" to Italy on behalf of Europe for not being at the country's side from the very beginning of the coronavirus crisis.

Addressing the European Parliament on the EU's coordinated action to fight the coronavirus pandemic and its consequences, Ms von der Leyen honoured the memory of the tens of thousands of Europeans who have lost their lives.

She also acknowledged that the EU could have acted with more speed and earlier, but she stressed that solidarity within the EU has been restored.

She said the Commission was now determined to do everything in its power to save lives, and there were many examples of European cooperation over the past weeks – with doctors, medical equipment and patients moved across borders – which showed that "Europe has now become the world's beating heart of solidarity".

Looking ahead, President von der Leyen said that it was the moment "to put behind us the old divisions, disputes and recriminations. The moment to be ready for that new world. To use all the power of our common spirit and the strength of our shared purpose.

"The starting point for this must be making our economies, societies and way of life more sustainable and resilient," she said.

Calling on Europe to stand together with courage, trust and solidarity through this crisis and beyond, Ms von der Leyen charted the path towards recovery: "We will need massive investment to jumpstart our economies. We need a Marshall Plan for Europe's recovery and it needs to be put in place immediately. There is only one instrument we have that is trusted by all Member States, which is already in place and can deliver quickly. It is transparent and it is time tested as an instrument for cohesion, convergence and investment. And that instrument is the European budget."

The European budget will be the mothership of Europe's recovery, she said.

She also emphasised the need to keep investing in the European Green Deal, and "to ensure the economic recovery is built on cohesion and convergence to help those countries and regions most hit by the crisis."

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