New EU talks on kick-starting economies will take time, says Rutte


European leaders are holding a new round of talks on Thursday to discuss ways to bail the EU out financially due to the coronavirus crisis, but Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte has told MPs he does not expect a speedy conclusion.

Earlier this month, finance ministers agreed a €540bn package of measures to support small firms and jobs, as well as finance the medical cost of coronavirus. But no deal has yet been reached on setting up a European support fund to kickstart the economy once social distancing rules are relaxed.

‘That is going to generate a lot of discussion,’ Rutte told MPs on Wednesday evening. ‘These are politically sensitive debates.’

Thursday’s discussion will focus on whether such a ‘recovery tool’ should be set up and how it should work financially. The Netherlands and Austria, for example, are keen to see financial help in the form of loans, and Germany has suggested linking the package to the next EU seven-year budget, rather than as a separate process.

Southern countries, however, back the use of grants, financed by some form of shared debt and Spain has said forcing members into debt will only deepen the crisis.

‘I do not expect any sweeping conclusions… but in the coming weeks the discussion will focus on how that recovery fund should take shape,’ Rutte said.

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