Macron says EU virus package ‘advancing’, in talks with Dutch PM

French President Emmanuel Macron (L) and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte speak in a restaurant after a meeting in The Hague, The Netherlands, 23 June 2020. [Pool/EPA/EFE]

French President Emmanuel Macron said talks on a EU coronavirus recovery fund were “advancing” Tuesday (23 June) as he met Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, a key holdout against the plan.

The Netherlands is one of the so-called “frugal four”, along with Austria, Denmark and Sweden, trying to rein in spending mainly for poorer southern European countries hardest hit by the pandemic.

Rutte welcomed Macron for a working dinner in The Hague ahead of a crucial EU summit on July 17-18 where leaders will try to seal a deal on the €750-billion recovery roadmap.

Neither leader spoke to the media, but the French president tweeted ahead of the meeting that he and the Dutch premier “both believe in the solidarity which makes our Europe.”

“From now until the European Council in July, we have to convince our partners of this Franco-German agreement. The negotiations are advancing and everyone must be heard,” Macron added.

France and Germany came up with the outline for the rescue plan — a major departure for the normally spending-conscious Berlin — before it was fleshed out by the European Commission.

Last Friday, Rutte raised doubts that EU leaders would reach a deal at a summit in July on the deal.

EU leaders to hold summit on 17-18 July on virus recovery package

The leaders of the 27 EU member states will meet in Brussels on July 17, their first physical summit since the coronavirus lockdown began, to discuss an economic recovery package and the EU’s next seven-year budget.

“It is uncertain whether it would be finalised then or whether we would need more sessions, and whether they should be during the summer or later,” Rutte told reporters after a virtual summit of EU leaders last week

The four countries opposed to the deal say help should be given in the form of loans, not grants, with tough conditions attached.

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