AMSTERDAM – Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Friday that disagreements between southern and northern EU countries about how to respond to the coronavirus are not insurmountable, as the Netherlands came under fire from Italy and Spain for perceived insensitivity in the handling of the crisis.
At the same time Rutte cautioned that the EU’s emergency tools, such as the European Stability Mechanism, should be used sparingly because “we don’t have so many cards left up our sleeve.”
EU leaders held a series of meetings this week about how to fight the spread of the COVID-19 disease and support the bloc’s economy, including a phone conference on Thursday evening but southern states were angered that the bloc’s 27 national leaders failed to agree during the call on more support for their economies, which have been battered by the disease.
The Netherlands was accused by leaders in Italy, Spain and Portugal of being insensitive by sticking to strict financial conditions for the use of emergency funds during a time of crisis.
“I didn’t notice anything about it last night in the video conference, there were differences of opinion between a number of more northern and a number of southern countries along the known dividing lines, but nothing that can’t be resolved,” Rutte said.
There was no question that European economies were suffering due to the crisis and action was required, he said.
“Only, what you want to do is to maintain a certain logic with each other about how one would help those countries, if they would want that. At this moment there’s no concrete request,” he said.
He also said that the Dutch do not support issuing Eurobonds, or collective debt shared by the bloc.
“That does not fit with the euro and the euro-system, countries such as the Netherlands, Germany and others believe, so I don’t think that’s going to happen.”