Opponents of the EU’s coronavirus rescue package must understand it’s an investment in the European economy.
They were the words of the EU’s budget commissioner Johannes Hahn.
He was speaking to Euronews ahead of a summit in which Brussels will seek consensus on the proposed €750 billion recovery fund.
With Europe facing a recession of historic proportions due to COVID-19 this is the solution on the table for helping the bloc recover.
But divisions remain with the so-called “frugal four” — Finland, Netherlands, Denmark and Austria — who are seeking compromises over the amount of money to be raised, how it is raised (on financial markets or via taxes) and how it will be spent (grants or loans).
“Frugal” countries, like the Netherlands, want to see more money distributed as loans, while some countries hardest hit by the pandemic, such as Italy and Spain, are calling for a larger proportion of grants.
But Hahn said it was not a question of north versus south.
“The so-called frugal ones should understand that it’s about an investment. We invest in the better performance of the European economy.
“For Austria their second-biggest export destination is Italy. So if Italy is not in good shape, it has an immediate impact on the Austrian economy.”
Hahn also made it clear the money distributed would not amount to a “free lunch”. EU countries will be expected to carry out “certain reform measures” in return, he said, but would not go into further detail on what these reforms might be.
Despite the divisions, Hahn is confident of a deal by July.
“I’m very confident and I also believe that member states understand the urgency because they feel every day the temperature on the ground.”