BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union finance ministers are unlikely to decide on any concrete action in response to the coronavirus outbreak at their teleconference on Wednesday as the call is meant to be mainly a stock-taking exercise, three EU finance officials said.
The extraordinary call at 1300 GMT is to allow the EU’s 27 finance ministers and the European Central Bank to share information and good practices and draw each other’s attention to spillover effects from developments, the officials said.
“This is a take stock meeting and a first stage of coordinating a response. Essentially the responses will come from member states,” one EU official said.
“We are not a super state. EU countries will respond as they see fit — we are in a health crisis. Coordinating means we share info, good practices, alert each other, take care of spillovers, frame it in EU context etc,” the official said.
“I don’t expect any decisions to be made, just stocktaking,” a second EU official said.
European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Paolo Gentiloni said on Monday the meeting could pave the way for a “coordinated fiscal response” later in March against the economic damage from the virus outbreak.
He noted such a response had to be “very timely. You can’t take it too early, you can’t take it too late,” he said.
A fourth EU official confirmed the call could prepare the ground for a possible fiscal response of EU countries, but stressed the steps would be decided at national level.
The coronavirus epidemic, which originated in the world’s biggest exporter China, is affecting the global economy by disrupting global supply chains in industries from cars to electronics and pharmaceuticals, and hitting especially hard aviation and tourism.
(Reporting by Jan Strupczewski, additional reporting by Francesco Guarascio)