‘This is SURVIVAL!’ EU’s fragile future under threat as leaders fail to set recovery plan

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The EU’s ambitious 750 billion euro recovery package to help those hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic has divided member states. The design of the plan, mostly made of grants, has sparked fears among the so-called ‘frugal four’ (Austria, The Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark). However, Belgium MEP Philippe Lamberts was not sympathetic to these views when he spoke to Euronews, emphasising that the situation was an existential crisis for the EU.

He said: “This is a matter of survival for the European Union, and people need to understand that.

“In The Netherlands, do they believe that the prosperity of the country just depends on The Netherlands?

“No, actually, most of the businesses the Netherlands is doing needs the European market.

“Without the European market, there’s no Dutch economy.”

Leaders of EU countries had a virtual meeting on Friday to find a compromise, but there was no breakthrough.

Austrian MEP Angelika Winzig told Euronews: “The ratio grants and loans is not in our favour, and we also need a conditionality.

“It’s important to invest in reforms.

“How can I explain to an Austrian entrepreneur, who’s company was closed as long as a Spanish company and his Spanish colleague gets more money in the form of grants and perhaps the Austrian gets nothing? For him, it’s the same situation.”

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen described the Friday discussions as “positive”.

According to her, many leader agree that the “severity of this crisis justifies an ambitious common response”, and that an agreement is needed soon.

EU Council President Charles Michel added that they will try to “accelerate the negotiations to have an efficient meeting in July”.

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Manfred Weber, president of the European Parliament’s largest political group, the European People’s Party, told Euronews: “I hate to borrow money, that’s not sustainable.

“That’s not in the interest of the next generation, though that’s why I share the perspective. But tell me what is the alternative?

“The Netherlands, Austria, all of Europe are currently creating debts, they’re going to the banks and borrowing money.

“That is what everyone is currently doing. Why? Because it’s the only chance to stabilise our economy, to create perspective for the young generation.

“To not risk a lost decade for the European economy and the union as whole.”

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