Regional divisions led Belgium to abstain on a vote on approving €37 billion in EU funding for member states’ response to the new coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
The EU Council approved the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative on Monday, an aid package which will release funds to boost nations’ health-related spending and for cushioning the economic blow of the coronavirus crisis.
Around €37 million of the Council’s package are set to be funnelled into Belgium’s national coffers, out of which an estimated €6.5 million is meant for Flanders, the region with the highest number of Covid-19 cases.
The money will come from unused reserves from the EU’s Cohesion funds, financial packages allocated to member states for regional development projects, with the funds then distributed between country regions according to their financial situation.
In line with the initial text, the final version of the initiative includes a provision giving member states “greater flexibility to make transfers between cohesion policy programmes in order to redirect resources to where they are most needed.”
The Council on Monday also amended to the EU’s Solidarity Fund (which boosts countries’ response to natural disasters), to include public health emergencies.
Both acts are set to be inscribed into EU law on Tuesday and set to enter into force on 1 April.