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Anti-EU populists could use the coronavirus recovery fund as political “ammunition” against the bloc, according to an expert. The 750 billion euro recovery package was agreed upon at the end of July to help those hardest hit by the pandemic. Professor Anand Menon, director of the UK in a Changing Europe initiative, spoke to Jonathan Saxty on BrexitWatch about how the union has handled the COVID-19 crisis.
He told viewers: “How they’ve dealt with it varies because, of course, public health and health in general are national competences.
“So each country has approached it differently and you can see big differences with the way say Germany has dealt with the virus as compared to say Italy or Spain.
“On the broader issue of the budget and the discussions over the recovery fund the EU has done what it always does.
“That’s to say it’s muddled through, it’s managed to put together a compromise that just about pleases everyone.”
Professor Menon continued: “The danger of the compromise I think is it probably also irritates populists and anti-EU forces across the European Union.
“I think that’s the fundamental problem the EU faces, it’s not Brussels that’s the problem, it’s national politics that’s the problem in the European Union at the moment.
“Given that, I wonder whether actually what has been agreed will provide ammunition for populist forces.
“Not only in the frugal four, who will be saying, ‘what are we doing paying for countries in the south?'”
The director added: “But in the south as well where of course a lot of rhetoric in places like Italy stress the fact that there should be grants given to the southern countries rather than loans because this was a common problem that everyone faced.
“So the full political implications of what has been agreed won’t be visible yet.
“But I wonder whether populists will be able to make hay on the back of it.”
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The so-called frugal four (Austria, The Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark) played a significant role in altering the recovery plan.
Their fears over increased debt resulted in a cap on their overall contributions to the EU budget.
This is being done using a significant increase in rebates.
French President Emmanuel Macron hailed the final package as “a historic change of our Europe and eurozone”.
German leader Angela Merkel told reporters she was “very happy” with the deal and felt “relieved”.
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