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A large-scale economic development program similar to the Marshall Plan is needed to strengthen the European Union, which is in crisis as a result of the coronavirus epidemic, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrote in a guest article for the German paper Welt am Sonntag on Sunday, referring to the recovery program put in place by the US to aid Western European economies after World War II. She has called on EU nations to invest billions in the bloc’s budget to avert catastrophic economic consequences.

The Christian democrat (CDU) politician said that as a result of the pandemic “the real Europe is back…working flat-out every day” together to do what none of its members could do alone.

As evidenced in the last weeks, the EU has taken measures which would have been unthinkable only recently.

It has made the state aid rules more flexible, relaxed the budgetary rules more than ever before, which has helped EU institutions and member states put up €2.8 trillion to fight the crisis. This is “the strongest response anywhere in the world” to the economic decline caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic, Von der Leyen emphasized.

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The European Union even went one step further this week and proposed a new €100 billion workplace protection program and to put every cent of the remaining money in this year’s budget into emergency aid to help secure vital medical equipment and scale up testing, von der Leyen wrote.

“We will need massive investment in the form of a Marshall Plan for Europe,” and at the heart of it should lie a powerful new EU budget.

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Due to the coronavirus crisis, the world has changed, so the EU budget needs to change as well, the EC president wrote, adding that the billions and trillions being spent today to avert a greater disaster “are an investment in our future protection and they will bind generations.” This is why it must be invested in a smart and sustainable manner.

And crucially we need to invest strategically in our future, for example for innovative research, for digital infrastructure, for clean energy, for a smart circular economy, and for transport systems of the future.

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A Marshall Plan of this nature will help build a more modern, sustainable, and resilient Europe, Ursula Von der Leyen wrote, who believes a stronger “Union can emerge from this” just as it did after every crisis in its history.

In recent weeks, there has been serious debate about whether the EU is trying to help Hungary or not. The European Commission is talking about a HUF 2,000 billion subsidy, while the Hungarian government says that the country does not actually get any extra money.

Featured photo by Francois Lenoir/MTI/EPA/REUTERS pool

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