Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, who is in Brussels attending a European Union (EU) summit, said Sunday that Finland had been consulting with both the “frugal four” and other EU countries over EU’s multi-annual budget and an ambitious recovery plan designed to lift the bloc out of the crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.
Talking to Finnish national broadcaster Yle, Marin said that the “Frugal Four” is “the partner of Finland for co-operation with regard to the recovery package,” but Finland also shares opinions with other EU countries on issues which she did not specify.
The summit, the first face-to-face one since the outbreak of the pandemic, came at a critical moment as the bloc is seeking a consensus on the European Commission-proposed 750-billion-euro (857 billion U.S. dollars) recovery plan. The next seven-year EU budget worth more than one trillion euros is another focus of the summit.
In the debt-financed 750-billion-euro recovery plan, 500 billion euros will be paid as non-repayable grants to crisis-hit countries and 250 billion euros as loans. But the EU member states differed greatly in talks.
The “Frugal Four” refers to the four countries – the Netherlands, Denmark, Austria and Sweden. They opposed the scale of non-repayable grants, and called for linking aid to reform plans. Spain and Italy, the hardest-hit countries by the pandemic, called for reaching the consensus as soon as possible.
Marin repeated on Yle that the total volume of the EU COVID-19 recovery package must be reduced, and the share of direct assistance must be lower.
In addition, Marin said Finland insists that the principles of “rule of law mechanism” be included in the results of the ongoing EU summit. Finland put forward the principle that the use of EU funding must be tied with the requirement that rule of law and joint values are applied in the receiver countries.
Marin said that if an agreement looks possible the talks should continue until Monday.
Germany news agency dpa, citing EU diplomats, reported on Sunday evening that the “Frugal Four” has suggested paring back the overall size of the proposed EU recovery fund from 750 billion euros to 700 billion euros in a bid to break the deadlock.
“Under the suggestion, half this 700 billion euros would be paid out as grants, and half as loans,” dpa said. (1 euro = 1.14 U.S. dollars) Enditem