FILE PHOTO: A woman, wearing a protective face mask, walks past a closed restaurant at the arcades of the Rue de Rivoli in Paris amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in France, January 29, 2021. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
March 16, 2021
By Foo Yun Chee
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – France has supported its virus-hit companies to the tune of 155.36 billion euros ($185.5 billion), just over a quarter of the 544 billion euros spent by EU countries to prop up businesses, with Germany in third place, European Commission data showed.
The EU approved 2.96 trillion euros in aid sought by governments to help farmers, the travel and tourism industry as well as companies in different sectors. But just 544 billion euros has been paid out, equivalent to 3.9% of the EU’s gross domestic product, the EU figures showed.
The data covered the period from mid-March to end 2020 and referred to state aid given out in direct grants, loans and guarantees and other instruments.
Germany’s approved aid amounted to 53% of the total 2.96 trillion, which prompted concerns among some EU countries that Europe’s largest economy may be giving its businesses an unfair advantage.
Italy, one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, disbursed 107.9 billion euros or 19.8% of the total aid paid out, putting it in second place after France, based on the EU data.
Germany paid out 104.25 billion euros, followed by Spain at 90.8 billion.
When disbursed aid is calculated as a percentage of a country’s GDP, Spain comes top at 7.3%, followed by France at 6.4% and Italy at 6.0%.
The EU executive, tasked with ensuring a level playing field in the 27-country bloc, has to date cleared more than 570 national measures.
($1 = 0.8374 euros)
(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee. Editing by Jane Merriman)