EU to keep pandemic economic safety net in place next year

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union’s executive branch says EU countries will continue to benefit from an economic safety net through next year to help their economies recover from the coronavirus pandemic. The European Commission activated a “general escape clause” in March 2020 that allowed member nations to deviate from normal budgetary rules. But with vaccination programs now taking hold and the number of new coronavirus cases dropping, the commission predicts the EU economy will expand by 4.2% in 2021 and by 4.4% in 2022. The commission’s executive vice president said Wednesday that the decision to prolong the escape clause until 2023 comes “with our recovery around the corner but with the road ahead still paved with unknowns.”