At the end there was even applause. According to a spokesman for the Eurogroup President, Mario Centeno, the video conference of the EU finance ministers ended Thursday evening “with clapping”. The digital meeting took less than an hour after ministers adjourned to 16-hour marathon negotiations on Wednesday night.
But on Thursday, they agreed on half a trillion euros in aid in the corona crisis. The French finance minister Bruno Le Maire spoke on Thursday evening in the short message service Twitter of an “excellent agreement” in dealing with the immediate economic consequences of the pandemic.
This time the plenum only started after an agreement between the main players could be reached in preliminary talks. Germany, France and Spain had agreed with the Netherlands and Italy on a draft text for the talks between the EU finance ministers, according to EU circles before the video conference started at 9:30 p.m.
Italy and Spain in particular should benefit from the aid. Credit lines from the European rescue fund ESM would only be subject to minimal conditions, the insiders said with regard to the compromise text. The money is to be limited for spending in the health care system – economic policy reforms such as those recently demanded by the Netherlands are thus off the table.
No reference to euro bonds
In the planned reconstruction fund after the crisis, the finance ministers are to examine “innovative” forms of financing. There is no precise reference to common bonds – so-called Eurobonds. These strictly reject Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, among others.
Italy has been vehemently pushing for community bonds for weeks and regularly combines such demands with gloomy doom scenarios for Europe. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told the BBC on Thursday that Europe’s existence was at stake.
In principle, even before the ministerial meeting, the EU member states agreed that unused ESM funds should be tapped in the Corona crisis. According to the proposal on the table, up to EUR 240 billion in ESM loans will be paid. Furthermore, there are said to be loans from the European Investment Bank (EIB) of up to EUR 200 billion for companies. The third part of the package is the EU Commission’s proposal to support short-time work with up to 100 billion euros.
The program must be approved by the heads of state and government. This could happen in a video conference in the coming days. The government representatives of the EU countries have refrained from personal meetings since the outbreak of the Corona crisis. (reu / afp / dpa / apa)