Dutch Welcome New Ideas On EU Recovery Fund But Deal Far Off

By John Chalmers and Gabriela Baczynska

The Dutch welcomed new proposals on a massive EU stimulus fund on Saturday in a second day of negotiations among the bloc’s leaders though a final deal on how to revive growth stifled by the coronavirus pandemic remained far off.

The talks on Friday were deadlocked over who should control how the money is spent, as Prime Minister Mark Rutte held out against his EU counterparts after 13 hours of negotiations at a summit in Brussels.

With the pandemic dealing many European economies their worst economic shock since World War Two, leaders seek to agree on a 750 billion euro ($856 billion) recovery fund and a 2021-27 EU budget of more than 1 trillion euros.

“I’m doing this for the whole of Europe, because it is also in the interest of Spain and Italy that they emerge from this crisis with strength,” Rutte told reporters early on Saturday, referring to the two EU countries most affected by the pandemic.

Many of the 27 leaders – wearing masks in their first face-to-face meeting since February – had their own demands in negotiations crisscrossing different regional and economic priorities.

But the Dutch position highlighted the deep splits in the bloc, as the executive European Commission seeks a mandate to borrow billions of euros on capital markets for the first time.

Fiscally conservative countries such as Austria, Denmark and Sweden are adamant that any new debt should be strictly policed.

The European Parliament must also approve any deal done by leaders.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said he saw a route to a compromise by involving EU finance ministers in monitoring new debt, rather than just the European Commission.

Senior EU lawmaker Guy Verhofstadt via Twitter rejected involving finance ministers, however, concerned that the parliament might be sidelined.

“The recovery fund cannot be a pretext to undermine EU democracy,” he said.

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