AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Wednesday said he would prefer to make a “gift” to European countries in financial distress as a result of the coronavirus outbreak rather than issue joint bonds or tap the Eureopean Union’s bailout fund.
In a debate in the Dutch parliament, Rutte said he hoped to repair diplomatic ties with Italy and Spain after drawing criticism for a perceived lack of empathy during EU crisis conversations last week.
Rutte repeated that the Netherlands opposed the idea of “coronabonds” as a form of debt-sharing among EU members in response to the crisis. He said he would also prefer setting up a new support fund rather than having countries use the European Stability Mechanism (ESM).
“If you do (support) from the ESM, then it’s a loan and a loan must be paid back,” he said. “If you do it as a gift, then it’s: ‘Listen, you guys have been hit hard, but together with a number of wealthier countries, we’re prepared to bear the direct costs of the coronavirus crisis’.”
(Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Hugh Lawson)