The Prime Minister, António Costa, on Thursday called “disgusting” and contrary to the spirit of the European Union (EU) a statement by the Dutch Finance Minister asking that Spain be investigated for not having the budgetary capacity to deal with the pandemic.
“This speech is disgusting within the framework of a European Union. And that is the expression. Disgusting”, António Costa said when asked about the statement by Dutch Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra, at the press conference that followed Thursday’s extraordinary European Council.
Hoekstra said, in a video conference with counterparts of the 27, that the European Commission should investigate countries, such as Spain, that say they have no budgetary margin to deal with the effects of the crisis caused by the new coronavirus, despite the fact that the eurozone has been growing for seven years. consecutive, according to European sources cited in the European press.
For the Prime Minister, the statement of the Dutch minister “is an absolute unconsciousness” and a “recurring meanness” that “completely undermines what the spirit of the EU is and which is a threat to the future of the EU”.
“It was not Spain that created the virus”
“If the European Union [UE] if you want to survive it is unacceptable that any politician, from any country, can give a response of this nature in the face of a pandemic like the one we are experiencing “, said António Costa.
“If we do not respect each other and if we do not understand that, in the face of a common challenge, we must be able to respond in common, then no one has understood anything about the European Union,” he said.
The Prime Minister considered it “good time” for everyone in the Union “to understand that it was not Spain that created the virus” or “that imported the virus”, stressing that “if any EU country thinks it solves the virus problem by leaving the virus on the loose in another country, you are very wrong “.
“Because in a European Union based on freedom of movement, people and goods, on open borders, the virus knows no borders,” he said.
It should be noted that at the European Council meeting, divergences were also noted in relation to the issuance of so-called coronabonds. A solution to combat the economic crisis resulting from the covid-19 pandemic defended by a group of European leaders, including António Costa, Emmanuel Macron (France) or Pedro Sánchez (Spain), who were in favor of issuing coronabonds in a letter sent to the President of the European Council, Charles Michel.
The Netherlands and Germany, however, are among the countries that have spoken out against the issuance of coronabonds, which would pool the debt of the 19 eurozone countries in response to the new coronavirus crisis.
After the European Council meeting, German Chancellor Angela Merkel made it known that she rejected the proposal supported by countries such as France, Italy and Portugal. He said that he prefers the current European Stability Mechanism (ESM).
The discussion on this matter was “open”, said António Costa.
The Prime Minister alluded to the letter he subscribed to, with eight other European leaders, addressed to the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, calling for the implementation of a common European debt issuance instrument to face the crisis caused by the covid-19, to state that “out of 9 [Estados-membros] that yesterday [quarta-feira] defended “such an issue,” today there were four more who joined, four who openly opposed and others did not take a position “.
António Costa stated that, “in good truth”, the four who opposed are “three totally against” and “one who, being against, has an open mind to discuss what was never available to discuss before”.
“It is a door that opens, gives some encouragement,” he said, refusing however to identify any of the Member States to which he referred.
The prime minister stressed on several occasions that the issue of ‘coronabonds’ is fundamental and is foreseen in the treaties and warned that “Europe cannot fall short of what citizens demand from Europe”.
“It is difficult to imagine a more extraordinary situation that affects the Member States so globally and for an absolutely strange reason,” he said.
“Europe needs much more than a common denominator”, he stressed, referring to the outcome of the European Council in this matter.
“Possible but manifestly insufficient” agreement
Asked if he was satisfied with the decisions at the European Council meeting, Costa said that the answer is insufficient, taking into account what the world is facing.
“It was a possible agreement, but manifestly insufficient for what is required of Europe,” he said, referring to an unprecedented crisis stemming from the covid-19 pandemic.
“We have already seen Europe failing to respond fully to a crisis such as migration […]. We saw how Europe had a hard time responding to the 2008 crisis […] With a much higher crisis, if we remain in the same positions, Europe will suffer greatly from this tsunami “, ipersisted.
The Prime Minister highlighted, however, the decision to launch a program of recovery of the European economy for the post-crisis of covid-19 and to mobilize a financing line of 240 billion euros.
In his opening statement, the Prime Minister said that at this “very long” meeting of the European Council, two decisions were taken which he characterized as “important”, the first of which related to the “mandate that the Eurogroup was given, within two weeks, present to the European Council the conditions for the mobilization of a line of the European Instrument for Stability, global amount of € 240 billion to finance Member States to combat the crisis caused by the outbreak of the new coronavirus “.
According to the Prime Minister, each Member State “can raise up to 2% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP)”, using this line “for support the necessary investments in the health area, namely for the acquisition of equipment, but also to finance measures to support employment, income and the stabilization of companies “.
The second “important” decision taken at this European Council, according to the executive’s leader, was to mandate the presidents of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and of the Council, Charles Michel, in liaison with the other European institutions, “having with a view to starting to prepare a program for the recovery of the European economy for the post-crisis period “.
“Nobody knows yet the zero moment of the post-crisis period, but it is necessary to start preparing the future so that, as soon as the pandemic is controlled, we can go on lifting measures of home confinement and paralysis of economic activity, not getting lost time in relaunching the economy “, stressed the Prime Minister.
Still with regard to the economic and social consequences of the health crisis caused by the new coronavirus, António Costa stressed that there is currently a situation of “widespread paralysis on a European scale, with strong pressure on employment and household income”.
“We have tried to act in a coordinated manner. As the Government did today when approving a set of measures to support businesses, employment and household income, we have all tried to act in a coordinated way at European level”, he said.
In this context, the Portuguese executive leader praised “the determined action of the European Central Bank (ECB) in order to control the risk of any sovereign debt crisis”.
“After an initial movement of speculation on the value of debts, there has been a calm in the markets and a sharp fall in the interest rate, not yet to the normal values we had in the pre-crisis moment, but a good downward trend that is essential to maintain “, he defended.
António Costa pointed as good examples the intervention of the ECB, first with the announcement of the mobilization of 750 billion euros for intervention in the market and, on Wednesday, by removing any restrictions on the acquisition of debt lines from different countries.
“It was the most important contribution so far in the European Union as a whole”, he maintained.
Other “equally important” contributions, in António Costa’s perspective, were the decisions to relax the rules of the Stability Pact and those of competition that prohibit State aid.
In this way, according to the Prime Minister, Portugal has already been able to provide “State aid that has allowed the interest rate to be lowered on the three billion euros of credit lines that this week are being opened to support a set of sectors economic hardest hit by the crisis “.
Repatriation. Government estimates that there are about three thousand Portuguese abroad
Of the decisions of this European Council, António Costa also highlighted “the creation of a ‘task force’ to accelerate the process of repatriation of European citizens scattered around the world”.
“We already we managed to ensure the repatriation of about 640 Portuguese people who were spread a little throughout the site. Right now, we estimate that we have about three thousand still abroad, many of them dispersed “, he said.
It was also decided at the European Council meeting to extend the measures to “limit movement” to the external borders of the European Union as much as possible “.
More funding for the development of a vaccine against the new coronavirus
The heads of state and government of the European Union, according to António Costa, also decided to call on the Commission “to speed up all procedures for the purchase of medical equipment and personal protective equipment”, and to reinforce the budget “for the constitution of a reserve stock at European level “for this equipment.
“There was a positive assessment of the mobilization of funds to support the 17 projects that are currently underway in the area of scientific research, namely for the development of vaccines to combat the coronavirus. There are 17 projects on a European scale – a Portuguese company has a stake in one of these projects – and it is obviously something very important for the medium term “, added the prime minister.