European economy plunges to “war-like times” due to Covid-19 epidemic, says Eurogroup chief

Portuguese Finance Minister and Eurogroup chief Mário Centeno said today that the coronavirus outbreak is bringing Europe’s economy to “war-like times”.

Speaking before a video conference between the eurozone’s finance ministers, Centeno recognised that the epidemic is still at an early stage.

“We know the virus hasn’t reached its peak. We must not kid ourselves. These are the first steps in a temporary, but long fight,” he said.

He declared that “forced containment is bringing our economies to war-like times”, adding that the finance ministers will be discussing a series of measures to help mitigate the effects of the outbreak on the European economy.

“Today’s Eurogroup will be dedicated to our response to the economic fallout of this virus,” he said.

“I will table a statement that sets out an EU coordinated policy response. It includes: initiatives to contain and treat the disease; liquidity support to firms, particularly SMEs, support workers and families – measures that will help bridge this gap until the virus wanes off,” the minister said.

“On the other hand, we will ensure that EU fiscal rules or state aid rules will not stand in the way of supporting our economies. Flexibility is there and will be fully used.

“National efforts go hand-in-hand with initiatives led by EU institutions such as the EC, the EIB and also the ECB. Together, we are giving a powerful response.”

Centeno also said that the ministers will also be discussing the next steps to take to “defeat this crisis and return to normality”.