The European Union approved a $580 billion aid package to help mitigate the consequences of coronavirus pandemic lockdowns in member countries.
European Council President Charles Michel said Thursday the package was expected to be operational by June 1. Michel said it would help pay lost wages, keep companies afloat and fund health care systems.
"We all agreed that the health and safety of our citizens comes first,” Michel said. “We also agreed to continue to follow the situation closely, in particular as we approach the holiday season and to coordinate as much as possible to ensure a gradual and orderly lifting of restrictions."
At Thursday's virtual summit, the EU leaders also agreed on a recovery fund, without giving a specific figure, intended to rebuild the 27-nation bloc’s economies. However, officials said $1.1 trillion to $1.6 trillion would be needed.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the impact of the economic crisis following the coronavirus outbreak is unprecedented in modern times.
"While the pandemic knows certainly no borders and is blind to nationalities, some countries are certainly hit harder than others,” she said. “And unless we act decisively and collectively, the recovery will not be symmetric and divergences between member states will increase. I am therefore very happy that the leaders this evening tasked the Commission with shaping our collective response to the crisis."
The funds are urgently needed in the hardest-hit European countries, Italy and Spain.