There seems to be an important breakthrough at the European summit in Brussels where the 27 EU leaders will meet to discuss, among other things, the Corona Crisis Recovery Fund and the European Multiannual Budget. It seems that Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s hard and ‘frugal’ attitude is certainly generating financial benefits.
In the latest proposal by European Council President Charles Michel, the Netherlands can look forward to more money. On the other hand, budgets are meant for innovation and climate policy.
The European recovery fund, which so many countries have been asking for for a long time, is likely to remain broadly the same (EUR 750 billion), but the distribution between gifts and loans will shift to EUR 390 billion and EUR 360 billion respectively.
Initially, Germany and France wanted to set aside 500 billion euros for donations and the Netherlands together with Denmark, Austria and Sweden did nothing at all.
Despite the apparent gifts for Rutte, it remains to be seen for the prime minister what his long-term struggle will mean. During the summit, many countries did not pass up their annoyance at the Dutch position.
Countries are getting a firm grip on reform
As it looks now, Rutte gets a firm finger in the pie when checking the conditions that are linked to the gifts.
The prime minister does not get his desired veto, but an ’emergency braking procedure’ with which every Member State can temporarily stop payment if the promised conditions such as reforming the labor market or the pension system are not met.
This remains a sensitive point for Italy and Spain, two countries hard hit by the corona virus. They had hoped for more solidarity from the north, especially the Netherlands, in the struggle to get their economy back on top. They do not want European interference in national affairs.
Rutte has always said that these countries do not have a financing problem. He referred to a European emergency package with cheap loans that was set up in April.
Higher discount on EU payments
The discount on the EU contribution for the Netherlands was also discussed. Rutte already knew that he could keep the existing discount, which is probably increased to almost 2 billion euros per year in the latest proposal from European Council President Michel. The Netherlands will then still remain a net contributor to the EU.
Another advantage lies in a different distribution of the European customs duty, which is beneficial for countries with large ports such as the Netherlands (Rotterdam) and Belgium (Antwerp). From now on, a quarter may be kept instead of a fifth.
If the 27 Member States agree, this does not mean a comprehensive agreement. A final decision has yet to be taken on respecting the rule of law. This mainly concerns Hungary and Poland, the Eastern European countries have been tipped off by Brussels more often for undermining the rule of law and the free media.
A group of countries now wants to link the payment of EU funds to this file. In that case Hungary and Poland have to blow up the whole deal with a veto.
If an agreement is still not reached at 6.05 am Tuesday morning, then this EU summit can still be called historical. The meeting in Brussels then lasts langer than the EU summit in France Nice in 2000, which holds the record for the longest summit ever.