The Netherlands offers 'gifts' to southern Europe as the region's death toll continues to rise

The Netherlands offers 'gifts' to southern Europe as the region's death toll continues to rise
By: WNG CNBC Posted On: April 02, 2020 View: 9

The Netherlands offers 'gifts' to southern Europe as the region's death toll continues to rise

THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS - 2020/03/23: Prime Minister Mark Rutte attends a press conference about COVID-19 outbreak.

SOPA Images

After much criticism, the Dutch government now wants to give a "gift" to other European countries that are grappling with the coronavirus outbreak, including Italy and Spain.

The coronavirus has hit Europe hard, bringing its major economies to a complete standstill. France, Germany, Italy and Spain — the four biggest EU economies — are all in lockdown, meaning that citizens are only allowed to leave their houses to buy food or medicine. The situation has been particularly dire in Italy and Spain where the number of infections and deaths are higher than those in China, where the outbreak began in late 2019.

The pandemic is also shaking the foundations of the European Union — the political and economic group of 27 countries — by resurfacing an old divides between northern and southern nations. 

The Netherlands unveiled Wednesday a plan for a "coronafund," a common basket of cash filled with contributions from member states. "These are not loans or guarantees, but gifts to help people in need," Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told lawmakers on Wednesday.

The Dutch proposal comes after the country refused the idea of issuing joint European debt to mitigate the costs of the virus. The Dutch government wants to show solidarity with other EU nations, but it believes issuing joint debt is a step too far, which will take years to negotiate. Lawmakers in Germany and Austria have a similar opinion.

The Dutch position sparked anger across southern European nations, which are in favor of bolder moves to support all EU economies during the pandemic.

LISBON, PORTUGAL - 2020/03/28: Praca do Comercio, formerly Terreiro do Paco, which is usually full of tourists, practically without people during the state of emergency.

SOPA Images

 Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa lambasted the Dutch finance minister for "repulsive" and "senseless" comments, after the latter said Italy and Spain should be investigated for not having enough fiscal space to deal with the crisis.

The Netherlands, with a current account surplus and a debt-to-GDP ratio below 60%, is one of the few EU countries that has respected the bloc's fiscal rules in recent times. With its fiscally-conservative approach, the country took the leadership of the "Hanseatic League" a few years ago. The informal group of northern EU nations has pushed back against significant steps for euro zone integration.

The Dutch plan for a "coronafund" comes as the entire region is racing to come up with new ideas on how to reduce the economic impact of the pandemic.

France, for example, also wants a common EU fund to help with costs. Bruno Le Maire, the French finance minister, told the Financial Times Wednesday that this fund should have a five to 10-year limit.

"Having a fund for, let's say, five or 10 years — with a limited timeframe — and with the possibility of having common debt but only within that fund, which might be more acceptable for other countries, might be a solution," Le Maire told the newspaper.

Euro zone finance ministers are due to have a video call Tuesday next week to discuss these proposals.

Italy extends lockdown

LIVORNO, ITALY - MARCH 29: A pizza chef prepares pizza while wearing a protective mask in his pizzeria which is closed to the public on March 29, 2020 in Livorno, Italy. In Italy the pizzerias are closed, but home delivery is allowed.

Laura Lezza

In the meantime, Italy is still the worst-hit EU nation by the virus. There were 4,782 new cases and 727 deaths in the 24 hours up to Wednesday, according to data from the Italian authorities. This has brought the total number of infections to 110,574 and the death toll to 13,155.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said Thursday that the government is preparing new additional measures to mitigate the impact of the crisis. He told Il Fatto Quotidiano that he aims to take these to Parliament before the Easter holiday.

Italy has been in national lockdown since early March and this is expected to last at least until April 13.

Jobless numbers in Spain

Data out Thursday morning showed that 898,822 workers have lost their jobs in Spain since the lockdown began on March 12.

The Spanish labor ministry said the sectors with the greatest decreases in workforce were construction and hospitality.

Spain's death toll has reached 9,387 and there have been 104,118 confirmed cases so far, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University.

Read this on WNG CNBC
  Contact Us
  World News Guru
Mail : [email protected]
  Follow Us
Site Map
Get Site Map

World News Guru is completely free and offers a broad range of media content from a varied and extensive range of sources. A global leader in online news, World News Guru presents news from over 2,000 reputable sources including mainstream providers BBC, CNN, CNBC, Sky Network, The New York Times etc to more regional and localized sources. We deliver unparalleled coverage on a vast range of subjects. This provides users with a variety of perspectives and different interpretations on breaking news events.