EU must focus on health, jobs, worry about fiscal sustainability later: Commission

European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis speaks during a news conference regarding money laundering, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues at the EU headquarters in Brussels, May 7, 2020. Virginia Mayo/Pool via REUTERS

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union countries must now focus on investment in public health and protecting jobs and companies and worry about fiscal sustainability later, the European Commission said on Wednesday, departing from its usual calls for prudent policies and reforms.

In its annual recommendations to the bloc’s 27 countries, called the European Semester, the EU executive said the EU should coordinate its approach to economic recovery once the coronavirus pandemic subsides.

“This Spring semester package has been recast and streamlined to provide guidance to our Member States as they navigate their way through the storm. For this immediate phase, our focus is on investing in public health and protecting jobs and companies,” Commission Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said.

“Once conditions allow, we will need to strike a balance between achieving fiscal sustainability while also stimulating investment,” he said.

European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Paolo Gentiloni said that during the recovery from the EU’s deepest ever recession expected this year, investment and reform should be focused on the “green” and digital transitions and ensuring social fairness.

“That also means everyone must pay their share: there can be no place for aggressive tax planning in a Europe of solidarity and fairness,” he said in an apparent swipe at tech giants like Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon, which the EU has long argued are not paying their fair share of taxes where they make money.

Reporting by Jan Strupczewski

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