“The Brussels Diary with Yana Toom”: €540 Billion Corona-Package


I do understand that everybody is fed up with this coronavirus. It is bad enough that we are tired of uncertainty, but we cannot see an end to it. We would all like to end our isolation as quickly as possible and return to normal life. It seems that it is not that bad in our country, but in France, the United Kingdom and the United States thousands of people are dying every day and it is true hell in the hospitals. Opening the economy in a week or two will not be possible. Not only would we be unable to revive the economy but we would also lose so many more people.

Nobody likes an epidemic. However, let’s just look at the bright side: it seems that we responded in time. In Sweden with a population eight times more compared to our country where almost no measures were imposed, the fatality rate is not eight times but thirty times higher. In the United Kingdom, where they delayed their response and the population is fifty times larger, the fatality rate is not fifty times but three hundred and sixty-five times higher. True, we do not know why these numbers are as they are. We do not know why by Tuesday morning 31 people had died in Estonia, 24 in Lithuania and only 5 in Latvia. The reason for such differences could be due to inaccuracies; however, the difference with Sweden and the UK does not fit into this explanation.

There is both good and not so good news from Europe. The good news is that the ministers of financial affairs of the EU allocated 540 billion euros to combat the virus. It is first time in history that this has happened. The amount is being divided into three parts. First, 200 billion euros are loans from the European Investment Bank to businesses.

Second, an additional 240 billion euros is forming an express aid fund. In fact, these are loans to EU countries and may only be spent on healthcare. It is allowed to take credit up to the amount of 2% of GDP. This means that Estonia could take a loan of approximately a half a billion euros from this fund.

Third, 100 billion euros from the European scheme will be allocated to alleviate unemployment, which will help to protect jobs, including in Estonia.

The actions of the government are very important, as the government has to prepare an application for the European Commission and specify how this scheme to protect jobs will operate. The principle is simple – we protect jobs, we keep demand up. This means a more rapid economic recovery.

The bad news is uncertainty. Nobody knows whether these funds will be enough or not. It is also unknown how the countries of the EU will react to these measures. Nine countries, and not only Italy and Greece, but also France, Belgium and Ireland, wanted more. Germany and Holland were against. It is unclear how this new rift between the North and South will end. A division between the West and the East is also evident. Hungary with Poland are disguisedly tightening the screws, and Brussels is dissatisfied – a conflict of values could really hurt us all.

In such conditions, we can only dream about common standards in healthcare. We desperately need them. Some say that if we were to add together all the deaths in the EU, the comparison with the US would not be in our favour. It is also true that we can only guess as to what will happen in America in the near future.

Should this pandemic drag on, we will have to face much more serious problems to which no simple solutions exist.

Be healthy. I wish you well.