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Taoiseach travels to Brussels for crunch EU summit, but will take 'special measures' upon return

Martin will be tested immediately on return and again after seven days.

Image: PA

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN is travelling to Brussels this morning for a special meeting of the European Council and will undertake “special measures” upon his return. 

Martin will be tested for Covid-19 as soon as he returns to Dublin this weekend and again seven days later as a precaution. 

He said his attendance at the meeting was “essential” given it’s the first physical meeting of all European leaders since the pandemic began and the “very serious implications” the summit’s outcome will have for Ireland. 

“I will have to take special measures. When I come back, I will be tested immediately, and will be tested seven days after I come back as well,” Martin told reporters on Wednesday. 

“There’s a range of measures specifically to enable me and ministers when important European Union meetings, in particular, recommence in a physical way, as the council is.”

The much-awaited ‘green list’ of countries for which people will be able to travel to without quarantining will be published on Monday. Despite this, the government is still advising against unnecessary foreign travel.

The Taoiseach has also promised increased staff at ports and airports to inform incoming travellers of their obligations to fill out a passenger locator forms and to restrict movements for 14 days.

Economic uncertainty

Martin will be joining fellow European Union leaders to wrangle over a €750-billion fund to help the hardest-hit member states weather the coronavirus crisis, as well as the EU’s long-term budget for 2021-2027. 

The virus fund would be financed through joint EU borrowing and consist mainly of grants. But the proposal is fiercely opposed by Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands and Austria who want to rein in the spending and insist on loans rather than grants, making agreement this week uncertain.

Crucially, the fund has the backing of German Chancellor Angela Merkel whose own government has ditched its no-new-debt dogma to unleash €130 billion in fiscal stimulus for Europe’s top economy.

European Central Bank Chief Christine Lagarde said that although economic activity in the eurozone has picked up in recent weeks, “uncertainty about the overall speed and scale of the rebound remains high”.

Ahead of today’s summit, Lagarde urged EU leaders to do their bit and quickly agree on the huge recovery plan.

“A very large number of leaders are perfectly aware of the importance of not wasting time and of being able to signal… that there is a level of consensus and determination to invest together, recover together and support each other,” she said in an online press conference yesterday. 

The ECB said in June it expected the eurozone economy to shrink by a record 8.7% in 2020 because of the pandemic, before returning to growth in 2021.

Incoming data suggest a rebound is already under way as countries emerge from lockdown and consumption ramps up, but Lagarde stressed that the recovery was still in its “early stages” and “uneven across sectors and jurisdictions”. 

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- Additional reporting from AFP 

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Adam Daly

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