Brussels, April 18 (IANS) The European Parliament has overwhelmingly voted in favor of mobilizing 3.08 billion euros ($3.7 billion) in funds to help national healthcare systems confront the coronavirus pandemic.

On Friday, 691 MEPs voted in favour, four against and one abstained, reports Efe news.

Around 2.7 billion euros will be channeled through the EU’s Emergency Support Instrument to help with the distribution of material across Europe, the acquisition of personal protective equipment and the production of tests.

Another 380 million euros will go to rescEU, a fund set up to help member states deal with emergencies.

Part of the financial package is destined for pressing issues beyond the coronavirus crisis, including 567 million euros to help Greece with the migrant crisis and 100 million to Albania to help with its reconstruction efforts after the 2019 earthquake.

As a number of countries begin to plot their exit from the crisis, MEPs also backed a resolution calling for a “massive recovery and reconstruction package” to help the bloc get back on its feet.

Almost all EU member states have some form of restrictive measures in place and nations like Spain and Italy have declared nationwide states of emergency.

The plan would be financed “by an increased long-term budget (MFF), existing EU funds and financial instruments, as well as ‘recovery bonds’ guaranteed by the EU budget”.

MEPs did not support the mutualization of debt, however, as proposed by countries in favour of the so-called corona bonds, saying attention should be given to future investment.

Green, Social Democrat and Left MEPs had called for a “substantial part” of the debt to be mutualized, an initiative that would help countries like Italy and Spain tackle the pandemic more cheaply. Their proposal was voted down.

Mainly northern countries like Germany and the Netherlands have stood in opposition to mutualizing debt packages, fearing they could further damage the EU’s economy.

MEPs said the recovery package should sit at the heart of the The European Green Deal and the digital transformation.

Lawmakers did, however, back an initiative to create an EU Coronavirus Solidarity Fund of around 50 billion euros.

“This fund would support the financial efforts undertaken by the healthcare sectors in all member states during the current crisis, as well as future investments in order to make healthcare systems more resilient and focused on those most in need,” a statement said.

Lawmakers also gave their backing to a proposal to guarantee the functioning of the EU Fund for the most deprived (FEAD), which provides food and basic materials to around 13 million people each year.

The proposal included “the possibility to finance the provision of protective equipment, the delivery of food aid and basic material assistance through vouchers, the temporary 100 per cent co-financing from the EU budget and lighter reporting and audit measures during the pandemic”, the Parliament said in a statement.

–IANS

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