EU countries will “come out stronger” from the coronavirus pandemic, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has declared as she outlined measures aimed at safeguarding the bloc against future crises.
Some €750 billion will be spent on health systems, industry, small and medium-sized enterprises, tackling climate change, and innovation, with leaders working “hand in hand, around the clock” with all countries.
It comes as last week, groups and unions representing NHS workers urged Boris Johnson to massively increase investment in staffing.
NHS nurses were also found to be in line for a pay increase worth less than half a roll of Downing Street wallpaper this year after the cost of the PM’s refurb were laid bare.
‘We owe it to our citizens, especially young people’
Von der Leyen said: “We know where we want to get to, because we chose our objectives together, as 27.
“We want to build a Green Europe, which protects our climate and our environment and creates sustainable jobs. We want to invest in a digital Europe, innovative and competitive in global markets.
“And we want a resilient Europe, which is better prepared to face future crises.
She added: “This is the opportunity of the century for Europe. A truly historic moment.
“We owe it to our citizens. And in particular to our young generation.”
The funding was deemed ‘essential’ for the economy to recover quickly, and to boost the EU’s social market economy and ‘unique’ single market.
Additional €90bn to prepare for pandemics and support creative industries
Some of this money will complement another €90bn investment in research and innovation programmes over the next six years, which will prepare EU’s health systems for future pandemics.
The additional investment was approved with 677 votes out of 699, under a project known as ‘Horizon Europe’.
Romanian MEP Dan Nica said: “Horizon Europe will prepare the EU for the future by supporting its health systems, its industry to decarbonise and, its businesses to innovate.
“It will also support European researchers!
“An ambitious investment in research and innovation will deliver on future challenges”,
German MEP Christian Ehler said: “We achieved an ambitious and balanced budget that strongly supports fundamental research as well as thematic research, including for the first time a specific budget for Europe’s cultural and creative industries. Horizon Europe will be a crucial part of Europe’s recovery.
“With this programme, the EU has also committed legally to defend academic freedom across the continent”.
Horizon Europe will see researchers benefit from funded fellowships and exchanges, as well as research facilities.
One of its main goals is to make Europe a frontrunner in market-creating innovation.