Brussels Edition: Buying Time

(Bloomberg) -- Welcome to the Brussels Edition, Bloomberg’s daily briefing on what matters most in the heart of the European Union.

Cases of coronavirus may still be spiraling and markets swinging wildly, but European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde has thrown EU leaders a valuable lifeline. She’s effectively handed them a 750 billion-euro check to prevent the illness-induced quarantines sending the region’s economy into free fall, and potentially splintering the currency bloc in the process. Though it clearly doesn’t provide an antidote to the virus itself, the move gives much-needed leeway for governments to spend money, at minimal cost, and cushion their populations from the worst of the fallout. For now, at least.

What’s Happening

No Pressure | Senior officials from euro-area finance ministries will today discuss new ways to support the bloc’s economies as they continue to suffer from the virus impact. They’ll have a chance to test the latest proposals on the table — including deploying the ESM’s nearly half-trillion euro firepower. But after the ECB’s big bazooka, some worry there’s now less pressure on governments to act.

Vaccine Quest | In any case, Europe’s economic woes won’t be resolved for good until there is a cure for the deadly illness. Here’s where we are in the hunt for a vaccine.

Lacking Experience | The crisis in Italy goes to the heart of why Western Europe, and likely the U.S., are less able than other regions to fight the spread of the virus: Unlike Asia and Africa, western governments didn’t have plans and teams ready for the pandemic, our reporters explain.

Worker Shortage | French President Emmanuel Macron urged citizens to strike a balance between staying home and keeping the country running, amid signs staff wary of contracting  the virus are steering clear of their workplaces and causing a labor shortage. Part of the population is “irresponsible” for “partying on the streets” and “going to the beach,” while others are over-reacting to the message of staying indoors, Macron said.

In Case You Missed It

Online Clubbing | The closing of clubs, bars and pubs throughout European capitals has left hundreds of thousands of employees, as well as artists — singers, dancers and stand-up comics — without work and wages. See how Berlin’s famed nightclubs are taking their show online.

Brexit Talks | The virus has struck at the heart of the post-Brexit talks, with Britain’s David Frost isolating himself after showing symptoms and the EU’s Michel Barnier testing positive. This week’s round of talks in London had already been put on hold and the news is likely to crush any hopes that the negotiations over the future trade relationship can make substantial progress while the pandemic continues.

Defense Spending | Europe moved closer last year to meeting a defense-spending target championed by Donald Trump, a trend that could ease transatlantic tensions as the world battles the coronavirus pandemic. These are the latest figures from NATO.

Green Recovery | The post-virus economic recovery could be a green one, Laura Millan Lombrana reports. Investing in solar farms, electric-vehicle infrastructure, and high speed internet would create a new way forward.

Chart of the Day

Brussels Edition: Buying Time

Italy’s electricity consumption dropped in the past week, a first sign of the deep economic impact of the national lockdown. The data is a harbinger of more bad news as the shutdown has likely dragged Italy into another recession.

Today’s Agenda

All times CET.

  • 11 a.m. Eurostat to publish data on asylum applicants in 2019
  • 2 p.m. EU ministers responsible for industry and internal market hold video conference on COVID-19 impact
  • 2 p.m. EU Home Affairs ministers hold telephone conference

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