Netherlands denies blocking Sassoli from coronavirus talks

“This crisis calls for swift decision making by both the EU Council and Parliament. The active involvement of the president is key in that regard,” a Dutch spokesperson told EURACTIV. [EPA/BART MAAT]

The Netherlands has never said that European Parliament President David Sassoli should be excluded from talks on the EU’s response to the coronavirus crisis, a Dutch spokesperson told EURACTIV.com following a report in Spanish newspaper El Pais.

El Pais reported last night that Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had excluded EU Parliament chief Sassoli from talks on the EU response to the coronavirus crisis.

“The leader of the only institution chosen by universal suffrage has been deliberately excluded once again from the forum in charge of preparing the roadmap for a comprehensive recovery plan […] Germany and the Netherlands lead the exclusion of Sassoli,” the newspaper reported.

A Dutch spokesperson said this was not the case.

“In no shape or form has it ever been suggested by the Netherlands that the President of the European Parliament should be precluded from discussions on the COVID-19 crisis,” they told EURACTIV.

EU Parliament sources also said that while Sassoli does hold daily teleconferences with Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, the presidents of the European Commission and Council, he does not take part in video-conferences.

However, The Hague made it clear that Sassoli is key to the discussions.

“This crisis calls for swift decision making by both the EU Council and Parliament. The active involvement of the president is key in that regard,” the Dutch spokesperson emphasised.

Toward another deadlock?

Meanwhile, a crucial Eurogroup meeting will be held later on Tuesday to discuss Europe’s response to the economic implications of the COVID-19 crisis.

According to sources, the differences between northern and southern European countries over the possible introduction of coronabonds have not been bridged, though other financial instruments are closer to being finalised

These include loans from the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) and the European Investment Bank as well as the European Central Bank’s bond-buying programme, and the Commission’s SURE scheme for unemployment – although some concerns about duration and scope still need solving – and making the most of the freeze on the fiscal rules in Europe’s Stability and Growth Pact.

Regarding an ESM bailout, The Hague concedes that there should be no further conditionality during the crisis, as the healthcare sector and economy should be supported and helped to recover and sufficiently address the coronavirus challenge.

However, after the crisis is over, the Netherlands insists that there should again be conditionality, as necessary reforms may need to be carried out in line with the provisions of the ESM Treaty.

This is something that Rome firmly rejects and pushes for zero conditionality instead. Italy will also oppose any agreement on ESM unless coronabonds are among the options.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic and Benjamin Fox]

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