What do the southern countries want?
Countries like Spain, Italy and France would like help as quickly as possible, with as few conditions as possible. For example from the European emergency fund, the ESM, filled with more than 400 billion euros.
In addition, nine EU countries (France, Italy, Belgium, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Spain and Portugal) want European bonds to be issued, also known as ‘eurobonds’ or ‘corona bonds’. The euro countries then borrow money together.
Why are Northern countries wary?
Much is already happening, say northern countries such as the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Finland. For example, fiscal agreements and state aid rules have already been suspended and the European Central Bank has started to buy unlimited bonds from weak countries.
An appeal to that emergency fund is certainly possible, Prime Minister Rutte emphasizes. But Rutte wants to look at the ‘timing and conditions’. In other words, don’t do it too quickly, and those who get money must also reform in the future.
The idea of ’eurobonds’ or ‘corona bonds’ is not open to discussion in the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Finland. The idea has often been suggested – and repeatedly rejected.
Why is Rutte so critical?
Many of the countries that are now proposing this drug are not doing well financially. For example, they have far too high a national debt. The opponents of the corona bonds, such as the Netherlands and Germany, have worked hard in recent years to reduce their national debt.
With such bonds you take the step to a ‘transfer union’, a European Union where strong countries keep the weak countries permanently afloat. Prime Minister Rutte thinks this is a nightmare.
How angry are the southern countries?
Well, furious. Italy, Spain and France are not happy with the attitude of the northern countries. “Disgusted, pointless and totally unacceptable.” It was with those words that Prime Minister Costa of Portugal described the position of Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra and the Netherlands in the corona crisis.
Is The Hague impressed by all the criticism?
This criticism of the Netherlands makes little impression in The Hague. Here it is emphasized that the resistance is broader. The Netherlands may have been chosen as the frugal bogeyman, but opposition has come from more European countries, such as Germany, Austria, Finland and the Baltic States.
If countries call on the European emergency fund, this is possible. The Netherlands only emphasizes what is in the treaties, says an insider. The feeling is in the Hague that the southern countries are using the corona crisis to now introduce special European bonds.
How can EU countries come together again?
After the EU summit, it was concluded that the finance ministers will start working on new proposals in the next two weeks. Maybe the Prime Ministers of the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal and the German Chancellor should dine, according to The Hague. But whether that will actually happen is still very uncertain.