EU countries are nearing an economic rescue plan for European countries worst hit by the coronavirus outbreak but not at the level of ambition called for by Italy and Spain.The EU’s 27 finance ministers are to meet for a videoconference on Tuesday.
However, with deep divisions between the rich northern countries and those in the south with heavy debt, ministers were expected to sideline a proposal to issue “coronabonds” which would pool borrowing among EU nations to fight the crisis.
A group of states including European heavyweights Italy, France and Spain has been imploring Germany, Austria and the Netherlands for common debt instruments to cushion the economic impact of the virus.
But conservative politicians in the north fear the plans would mean the eventual sharing of all sovereign debts and their taxpayers footing the bill for supposed southern profligacy.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday reiterated her government’s stance of activating the European Stability Mechanism bailout fund to help countries that needed it, but pointedly did not mention shared borrowing.
She also hailed the stimulus of €750 billion by the European Central Bank (ECB) towards averting economic catastrophe.
But France insists that the economic destruction caused by the COVID-19 crisis demands a new way of thinking in Europe and wants member countries to help each other in unprecedented ways.
‘Same speed’ recovery
“Nothing would be worse for Europe than for some states because they are richer get off to a quick start, while others because they cannot afford it, start slowly,” French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told broadcaster France 2.
“We all need to recover at the same speed in order to guarantee the cohesion, solidarity and unity of the eurozone and our common currency,” he added.
Sources said Germany and its allies would likely prevail in Tuesday’s videoconference, although ministers would also agree to continue discussions on ideas such as coronabonds.
Le Maire threatened to refuse the overall deal if this were not the case.
In an interview with German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Le Maire added that “it doesn’t make sense to come together every 14 days or month in order to define new instruments under time pressure. We have to have all instruments available from the beginning.”
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