Europe’s response “rapid” says Eurogroup president

 In News, Tourism

The President of the Eurogroup of EU finance minsters and Portuguese Minister of Finance, Mário Centeno deflected criticisms that Europe suffered from a lack of unity in responding to financial stimuli for Eurozone countries affected by Covid-19 on Thursday.

Interviewed by the BBC’s Stephen Sackur on Hardtalk, Mário Centeno was grilled over the problem of Southern European countries like Italy which felt they had been abandoned by the EU at a time of crisis and could even leave the EU itself.
The minister said that the crisis was different from previous ones in that there were “no structural weaknesses to pin the blame on” countries.
Mário Centeno also stressed that unlike a decade ago, Europe’s response had been rapid. “The last few months have been crazy, but as a European I am happy that we have dealt with the problem together” he said.
Centeno stressed that the “Eurogroup had taken leadership in managing the crisis” through a €540Bn package to protect workers, companies and European member states.
“We’ve worked hard in recent months to build safety networks for more vulnerable countries and those most vulnerable in society,” he said.
The Finance minister recalled that 10 years ago, “We took four years to come up with a united and consistent response” to the crisis, and added “this time has been different” with the European Commission and European Central Bank working with Eurogroup to come up with a rapid response.
“The time has come from a strong recovery package. This moment is an opportunity to step up the European Union’s budget and to better coordinate economic policies”.
However, the BBC reporter put it to the Eurogroup finance minister that “for all the talk of solidarity, the virus had exacerbated the EU’s greatest weakness – economic divergence”.
In terms of Portugal and its tourism industry and fears raised that Portugal’s number of Covid-19 cases has been rising in recent days, he told Sackur that cases were confined to certain pockets in Lisbon and that the Algarve region, favoured by tourists from all over Europe, particularly the United Kingdom, has hardly any cases of the illness.
He called on the British Government, the authorities and the airlines to relax travel restrictions and improve incentives to get the British to return to the Algarve and other holiday destinations in Portugal as all necessary measures had been taken at airports and in hotels to ensure their health safety and wellbeing.
The minister of Finance also admitted on Friday that Portugal’s GDP had plummeted by 25% b the final days of March because of the crisis caused by Covid-19, estimating an overspend of around €13Bn in national public accounts.