March 16, 2020 / 2:37 PM / 22 days ago

EU could muster 28-40 bln euros immediately to support firms hit by epidemic -EIB

BRUSSELS, March 16 (Reuters) - The European Union could provide 28-40 billion euros immediately to support small and medium sized companies hit by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the European Investment Bank said in a letter to EU finance ministers.

The letter, sent late on Sunday, said economic activity in Europe was shutting down as a result of government decisions to limit the spread of the virus and of social behaviour.

“The resulting economic damage is immediate and widespread,” EIB President Werner Hoyer wrote in the letter, seen by Reuters.

“We need a strong European response to the Corona crisis. The economic and financial dynamics immediately ahead of us are approaching a tipping point. If Europe wants to prove its value in this situation, it needs to act jointly.”

European Union finance ministers were holding a video conference on new ways to respond to the economic damage caused by the coronavirus epidemic at 1400 GMT and will discuss the role of the EIB in that task. (Reporting by Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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