Macron to discuss EU rescue plan with ‘frugal’ Dutch

French President Emmanuel Macron (L) greets Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte (R) as he arrives for a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, 14 February 2020. [Ian Langsdon/EPA/EFE]

French President Emmanuel Macron will visit the Netherlands Tuesday (23 June) for talks with Prime Minister Mark Rutte on a massive EU coronavirus recovery fund that has met with Dutch resistance.

The leaders will meet in The Hague on Tuesday afternoon before sitting down to a working dinner, the French presidency said.

“This visit is part of the many contacts and consultations between the president and his counterparts to provide a European response to the crisis,” said the Elysée  Palace.

Rutte’s office confirmed the men would discuss “inter alia, the European Commission’s proposal for a recovery fund for countries affected by the coronavirus and the multi-annual budget of the European Union.”

Last Friday, Rutte raised doubts that EU leaders would reach a deal at a summit in July on the €750-billion plan put forward by the EU Commission.

The proposed package consists of €500 billion in grants — a suggestion of Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel — and €250 billion in loans.

The proposal, based on EU borrowing, requires unanimous EU approval.

“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 Netherlands is among the so-called frugal four, along with Austria, Denmark and Sweden, trying to rein in spending earmarked mainly for poorer countries of southern Europe hardest hit by the COVID-19 epidemic.

They say help should be given in the form of loans, not grants, with tough conditions attached.

European Council chief Charles Michel has said the 27 EU leaders would resume face-to-face budget negotiations in Brussels next month, and Merkel has called for agreement by end-July to kickstart an economy battered by the coronavirus lockdown.

But Rutte warned leaders said he did not believe “an enormous rush is needed”.

Macron, for his part, said Friday it was “essential… to quickly reach an ambitious agreement.”

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