Europe’s Green Deal and wider energy transition strategy should be dovetailed with efforts to limit the socio-economic impact of the ongoing coronovirus pandemic, EU leaders have said.

Heads of government from the EU’s 27 member states, meeting by video-conference, laid down a “coordinated” approach to Covid-19 emergency measures, ranging from the provision of medical equipment, promotion of research, and tackling socio-economic consequences, to helping European citizens stranded in third countries.

But they also stressed that a recovery strategy after the worst of the pandemic is over needed to be built around the “green transition and digital transformation”.

“The urgency is presently on fighting the coronavirus pandemic and its immediate consequences,” the EU leaders said in a joint statement.

“We should however start to prepare the measures necessary to get back to a normal functioning of our societies and economies and to sustainable growth, integrating inter alia the green transition and the digital transformation, and drawing all lessons from the crisis.”

“This will require a coordinated exit strategy, a comprehensive recovery plan and unprecedented investment.”

The EU leaders invited the European Commission together with the member states and institutions including the European Central Bank to begin work on an economic recovery action plan ‘roadmap’ integrated with the Green Deal.

The discussion among EU governments around how sustainable growth and the energy transition could be key features of post-Covid-19 development comes after some Eastern European politicians had used the virus outbreak to attack the the bloc’s ambitious Green Deal plan to drive down greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050.

While Poland had said it will need more substantial amounts of EU funds than promised so far to help its coal-dependent economy wane itself of fossil fuels, Czech prime minister Andrej Babiš had even told reporters to scrap the €1 trillion ($1.1trn) plan to achieve a carbon-neutral economy and focus on fighting the coronavirus instead.

Renewables sector groups cheered the inclusion of the Green Deal into the EU’s coronavirus response strategy .

“Although EU policy is now fully focused on tackling the Covid-19 crisis, the European Commission has clearly stated it will not cut back on the Green Deal work plan and timelines,” said wind industry advocacy body WindEurope, in a statement.

“The Commission’s leadership – vice-president for the Green Deal Frans Timmermans, energy commissioner Kadri Simson and internal market commissioner Thierry Breton – have all stated in recent days they would offer ‘even greener solutions’ as part of the EU economic recovery plan.”

Walburga Hemetsberger, chief executive of industry body SolarPower Europe, stated: “The decision of the European Council to include the green transition as a key element of the European Covid-19 stimulus package is smart and forward-looking.

“Solar power, as the most job intensive, low-cost and easily deployed renewable technology can play an important role in this regard.”

Hemetsberger added: “We are collaborating closely with our members to bring forward concrete proposals with the aim of mitigating the effects of the virus on the European solar sector and boosting new investments across the entire solar industrial value chain.”

· With additional reporting by Darius Snieckus