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European Covid-19 support extended to culture and SMEs

Funding intended to offer reprieve from pandemic

New sources of financial support have been announced for smaller companies and cultural initiatives based in Europe, to help them deal with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The European Commission announced on 6 April that it would use €1 billion from the EU’s European Fund for Strategic Investments, underpinned by the bloc’s Horizon 2020 R&D programme, to guarantee an estimated €8bn in loans to at least 100,000 small and medium-sized enterprises.

“Across Europe, our businesses are struggling,” said Commission executive vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis. “The EU is responding quickly to help cushion the blow and to help small and medium-sized companies, which are especially vulnerable.”

The Commission also announced that it was extending to the end of 2020 a temporary provision on state aid adopted in March, which allows EU member states to “accelerate the research, testing and production of coronavirus relevant products, to protect jobs and to further support the economy”.

The measure covers state aid for activities including R&D, building and upscaling testing facilities and subsidising wages.

On the same day, the European Foundation Centre network of philanthropic organisations announced the launch of a Culture of Solidarity Fund in response to Covid-19. The fund will support “imaginative cultural initiatives—big or small—that reinforce solidarity and the notion of Europe as a shared public space in response to the current crisis and its aftershocks”.

Funding between €5,000 and €50,000 will be rolled out in three stages between now and the autumn, with the first call for applications closing on 27 April.

The announcements came as the European Students’ Union urged politicians and higher education institutions to provide financial support to students affected by and helping with Covid-19.

“Governments and higher education institutions need to ensure adequate monetary remuneration and academic recognition of the unspoken exertion students, interns and civilian servants are undertaking in the scope of this pandemic,” said ESU president Robert Napier.