MEPs approve €6.2b EU budget increase to deal with Covid-19

MEPs have approved with urgency a €6.2 billion increase to the EU budget to boost the bloc’s chances of having an effective and safe Covid-19 vaccine available as soon as possible, and to step up cohesion funding related to the pandemic.

The budget increase had been proposed by the European Commission late last month, and was approved by member states last week.

Cohesion funds – which aim to reduce regional disparities within the EU – have been topped up by €5.1 billion to ensure that requests for reimbursements from member states for actions taken under the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative Plus (CRII+) can be covered. The CRII+ was created to relax cohesion spending rules to increase flexibility: the original CRII redirected unspent EU funds to tackle the Covid-19 crisis

The remaining €1.1 billion will increase payments for the Emergency Support Instrument, of which a significant part is being used in a bid to secure the production of vaccines in the EU and sufficient supplies for member states.

The proposal was adopted with 643 votes in favour, 29 against and 14 abstentions. In recognition of the importance and urgency of the proposal, MEPs have treated it as urgent, and moved to a vote within waiting for a report from the Committee on Budgets as is standard.