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Varadkar urges swift and ambitious EU response to Covid-19 emergency

The Taoiseach took part in a four-hour European Council video conference meeting.

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Leo Varadkar (Brian Lawless/PA)

Leo Varadkar (Brian Lawless/PA)

Leo Varadkar (Brian Lawless/PA)

The Taoiseach has called on fellow EU leaders to deliver a swift and ambitious response to the coronavirus emergency.

Leo Varadkar took part in a European Council meeting on the pandemic on Thursday afternoon – the fourth occasion EU leaders have convened to discuss the crisis.

They agreed to create a huge recovery fund that will be linked to the bloc’s revised next seven-year budget.

However, member states remain divided over how the fund will work, with an impasse over calls by some of the worst-hit countries for mutual sharing of the debt incurred battling Covid-19.

Other states are opposed to mutualised debt in the form of so-called coronabonds, with all EU nations involved in paying them off.

Leaders have tasked the European Commission to undertake more work on how the fund could operate.

It is estimated to cost one to 1.5 trillion euros.

At the council meeting, members also endorsed a separate 540 billion euro package of support for member states, which was agreed by the Eurogroup of European finance ministers earlier in the month.

An Irish Government statement said that in his contribution, Mr Varadkar “joined those calling for a swift and ambitious EU response”.

It said he highlighted acute difficulties in agriculture resulting from a collapse in exports and prices and stressed the need for urgent financial support for farmers under the provisions of the Common Agricultural Policy.

“He also called for a plan to be developed to ensure EU states have public health controls at airports before business and tourist travel resumes and so that it can,” the statement added.

“And he spoke of the need for the EU to scale up its capacity to produce medical equipment and create stockpiles in advance of a possible second wave of the pandemic.”

European Central Bank president Christine Lagarde also took part in the four-hour video conference.

PA