The European Union is deeply divided on whether to borrow jointly in the Corona crisis. EU Commission chief von der Leyen is now cautious - and is causing unrest in Italy.
Brussels / Rome (dpa) - EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has spoken cautiously about so-called corona bonds, causing anger in Italy. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who calls for the European Union to borrow jointly, was outraged.
He will fight for a strong common response to the Corona crisis until the end of his day, he said last weekend. The EU Commission then made it clear that all options remained on the table if the EU treaties permitted them.
In an interview with the German Press Agency, von der Leyen made it clear that the EU Commission is not planning to issue its own loans to raise debt in the Corona crisis. "There are very clear legal limits, that's not the plan. We're not working on that." On the other hand, the head of the commission expressed understanding for the federal government, which also rejects joint loans from other EU institutions.
"The word corona bond is actually just a catchphrase," said von der Leyen of the dpa. "Behind it is rather the bigger question of liability. And there the reservations in Germany, but also in other countries are justified."
With regard to Italy, she added: "On the other hand, I'm obviously worried that the economic gap will widen after the crisis than before. The goal of Europe has always been that we move closer together economically." Italy is in the Corona crisis through no fault of its own and is badly hit economically, especially the middle class in the north. "You have to save these healthy companies."
In the end, von der Leyen did not agree on the question of joint borrowing, but emphasized: "The Eurogroup has the mandate to develop several proposals within 14 days with a view to the ESM, which it must then present to the heads of state and government again . You should wait and see. "
However, her statements immediately caused great unrest in Italy. Prime Minister Conte stressed on Saturday evening that the EU Commission was not responsible here, but the Eurogroup. On Twitter, Conte wrote: "The European Union has an appointment with history, and history does not wait, you have to be at its height. The response to the Coronavirus emergency must be strong, powerful and coherent. I will support Italian citizens fight to the last drop of sweat. "
Italy, along with Spain, France and other countries, is calling for joint EU borrowing. In Germany in particular, the Greens support this vehemently. Chancellor Angela Merkel and other EU heads of government reject corona bonds because they fear liability for the debts of financially troubled countries. Even before the pandemic, Italy was in debt with more than 130 percent of its economic strength.
Instead, Merkel advocates aid via the ESM euro rescue fund. Special lines of credit that could also help Italy are being considered. Rome is not enough. At a video summit of the EU heads of state and government on Thursday, the 27 countries did not agree and therefore gave the order to the Eurogroup to make new proposals within two weeks.
Von der Leyen published a clarification late on Saturday evening, saying: "At the moment, the President does not rule out any options under the (EU) Treaty." The Commission itself will now mobilize funds from the current EU budget, which would bring immediate relief. Secondly, new proposals will be made for the planned next seven-year budget. "This will include an economic stimulus package that will ensure the cohesion of the Union through solidarity and responsibility," the statement said.
Negotiations on the financial framework for the years 2021 to 2027 failed for the time being in February. They must be completed before the end of the year, otherwise many EU programs would fall short as of next year.