Brussels has come under attack from several member states over the bloc’s response to the coronavirus pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of people throughout the continent. The crisis has forced Governments to put their countries into lockdown, costing billions of pounds in lost trade and blowing massive holes in their respective economies. EU member states continue to be at loggerheads over the €750billion ‘Coronavirus Recovery Fund’ proposal from the European Commission and the upcoming seven-year EU budget in terms of how they should be paid and how much countries should contribute.
During a speech to the Bundestag setting out Germany’s priorities for the rotating presidency of the EU, Angela Merkel said: “The pandemic shows us how vulnerable Europe is.”
Ms Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron are pushing the case for the huge recovery fund, with the former urging EU leaders to agree on the spending at a summit taking place on Friday and Saturday.
The proposal from the European Commission would offer grants – with no repayment obligation – to countries hit hardest by the COVID-19 crisis.
Speaking ahead of the crucial summit, Gabriel Felbermayr, President of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, warned of the importance of the EU setting the “right course, because what is happening here will change the EU over the next few years, maybe decades”.
EU summit: A leading economist has warned ‘we need more money in Brussels’
EU summit: Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel have pushed for member states to agree on the coronavirus recovery fund
He said in an interview on German radio station Deutschlandfunk: “Above all, it must be ensured that money actually improves the economic prospects in the countries in which they are needed and not simply to stop them household holes are used.
“However, the EU Commission’s proposals are not yet sufficient.”
But Mr Felbermayr warned the EU does not have enough money to stabilise in crises, proven by its handling of the coronavirus pandemic sweeping through the bloc.
He said: “We need more money in Brussels, I think so, in order to stabilize crises, and that has probably arrived in Berlin.
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“Germany has no interest whatsoever in the fact that the internal market is more fragmented again, that we may have an Italexit in addition to Brexit.
“That would be devastating for us. That’s why the money is basically well invested.
“However, we have to take great care to ensure that European added value actually arises, so that the money is not only paid out to the states and creates political benefits there, but that it is also economically clear that Europe is entering uncharted territory with these funds, becomes more stable, more resilient, and above all it manages to implement reforms that ultimately bring the growth rate in Europe back up somewhat.”
Mr Felbermayr said the summit of the remaining 27 EU member states on Friday is “very crucial”, as the EU is “breaking new ground” with the proposed €750million coronavirus recovery fund.
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EU summit: Gabriel Felbermayr said ‘we need more money in Brussels’
EU summit: The President of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy said the summit is ‘very crucial’
But he wants the economic policy currently followed in Europe to change, where the bloc has so far been investing in structural policy and long-term issues.
The Kiel Institute for the World Economy President said: “It is a very crucial summit, because with the “Next Generation EU” program, with the 750 billion euros mentioned, the EU is breaking new ground.
“Money is taken in hand to stabilize. The economic policy should also be done in Europe, not just in the member states.
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“So far, Europe has mainly been doing structural policy, financing long-term things. That should change now.
“Money is to be raised on the capital markets on a large scale. We’re talking about more than five percent of Europe’s gross domestic product.
“Something completely new, too. It is important that the European Union sets the right course here, because what is happening here will change the EU decisively over the next few years, maybe even decades.”
Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg.