President Macron will visit the Netherlands today for talks with Prime Minister Rutte on the huge EU Coronavirus recovery fund that has met with resistance from the Dutch government and three other Member States, the so-called “Frugal Four.”
A French government spokesman said, “This visit is part of the many contacts and consultations between the President and his counterparts to provide a European response to the crisis.”
At the meeting, the two men will try to lay the groundwork for a “quick and ambitious” deal at a leaders’ summit next month.
Speaking to reporters ahead of Tuesday’s meeting in The Hague, Greens co-leader Philippe Lamberts said it was up to Macron and also Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, “to bring their own people into line” on the €750bn recovery plan along with the next MMF.
If agreed, the stimulus plan, backed by France and Germany, would be deployed over the next four years and help the EU shift to being climate neutral by 2050 and better adapted to the digital age.
“What Macron will try to do today at his meeting with Rutte is what Merkel has to do with the others in the family of liberal democrat parties. On this, we will see just how strong her influence still is” Philippe Lamberts, Greens co-leader
The plan was discussed, said Lamberts, at a conference of presidents’ meeting earlier on Tuesday with Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, which Lamberts attended.
The proposed recovery plan package consists of €500bn in grants and €250bn in loans. It is proposed that one of the ways the money is allocated will be based on population size, GDP per capita and past average unemployment levels. Such criteria put Italy and Spain at the top of the list.
The proposal for grants was first put forward by Macron and Merkel but the Frugal Four – the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark and Sweden - are opposed to the plan as it stands because they want to rein in spending.
Lamberts told reporters, “I actually do understand the Frugals, who say they don’t want to fill in the gaps in bottomless budgets.”
“I believe they are correct to say that while they are willing to fund projects of a general interest, they are not willing to finance bottomless budgets and the Italian proposal is doing just that.”
Lamberts went on, “If you look at the frugals and who, in these four countries, oppose the recovery plan, this includes Merkel’s friends in Germany and elsewhere.”
“What Macron will try to do today at his meeting with Rutte is what Merkel has to do with the others in the family of liberal democrat parties. On this, we will see just how strong her influence still is.”
“It will also be good if, at today’s meeting, President Macron can have a word with his liberal friend Rutte because, currently, the position of the Dutch government on the recovery plan and MMF is ridiculous” Ska Keller, Greens co-leader
The ruling parties in Italy are still divided over the use of the recovery fund, of which Italy is expected to obtain one of the largest shares.
The recovery plan aims to help economically weaker countries hit worst by the Coronavirus to recover at a more equal pace with the stronger ones, but a summit of EU leaders last Friday failed to reach agreement over the plan.
It is now hoped the Frugal Four can be won over to supporting the proposal in time for another summit on 17 July.
Speaking at the same online briefing, Greens joint leader Ska Keller said she was “not happy” with the role the European Parliament is currently playing in the recovery plan and budget talks.
The German member said, “We want the Parliament to play a strong role and we will fight for this.”
Parliament’s President David Sassoli is also pressing for the assembly to be fully involved in the ongoing talks.
Keller added, “It will also be good if, at today’s meeting, President Macron can have a word with his liberal friend Rutte because, currently, the position of the Dutch government on the recovery plan and MMF is ridiculous.”
She added, “However, I am not so sure this will work because, so far, Rutte been a real hardliner on the issue.”