The group of self-proclaimed “frugal four” – Austria, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands – presented an alternative to the joint proposal by Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron at the weekend. The four countries also advocate a one-off emergency fund to strengthen the EU economy as a result of the corona crisis. However, they want to limit the emergency aid to two years.
“We want a time limit so that it really is an emergency aid and does not become a debt union through the back door,” said Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.
Another fundamental difference: the “economical four” do not want to distribute grants under any circumstances; the EU is only supposed to pass on cheap loans to the member states. The states would have to borrow the money from the EU’s community fund and pay it back later.
The CDU economic council welcomed the counter-proposal of the four states. “The proposal is a good and above all a really quick and helpful alternative to the Franco-German initiative,” said Wolfgang Steiger, general secretary of the business association, the Handelsblatt. The latter is an important step forward, but harbors the great danger of a debt union in the future and works too late.
For Steiger, the counter-proposal from the four countries therefore starts at the right places. “Loans instead of grants are just the right way as is the clear time limit. This means you can react faster and more efficiently. ”
CDU chief Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, on the other hand, defended the advance of Merkel and Macron. “In my view, this proposal is the right answer in a historical situation in which European cohesion is being tested,” said Kramp-Karrenbauer to the news portal n-tv.de.
The EU Commission of Ursula von der Leyen now faces the difficult task of designing a model that is capable of reaching a consensus. She wants to present her own proposal next Wednesday and is aiming for a significantly higher volume than Merkel and Macron in her “reconstruction instrument”: at least one trillion euros.
The Commission relies on a mix of grants and loans. This is to prevent the EU countries from drifting further apart economically. The crisis must not be remembered as a major fragmentation of Europe, said EU Economic Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni.
But a compromise could be difficult. The CSU suggested a combination of both concepts. This could be a way to strengthen European solidarity and cohesion to deal with the corona crisis, said regional group leader Alexander Dobrindt.
There is also a struggle for economic stimulus at the national level. Federal Finance Minister Olaf Scholz (SPD) is considering strengthening purchasing power after the corona crisis with a family bonus. Parents could therefore receive a one-off payment of 300 euros for each child.
The government is also considering whether consumer vouchers from the state could boost the buying mood of the population. This would also benefit people without children, government circles said. First, the “mirror” reported on the plans.
Federal Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier (CDU) advocated that relief such as the compensation of the cold progression planned for 2021 or the introduction of the second level of child benefit be brought forward.
In addition, Altmaier called for a “moratorium on burdens” for the economy, i.e. a break in bureaucracy and regulations, as well as relief on the price of electricity. The federal government plans to present a large stimulus package in early June.
More: 500 billion euros for Europe: Merkel and Macron’s anti-crisis program. Read more here.