Europe is there, it is moving, it is responding to the health emergency and preparing for economic recovery.
For the past month, our Renaissance delegation has been working hard, within the Renew Europe group and with various Commissioners, Governments and experts, to respond to the emergency and prepare for recovery. A good number of European movements and organisations, starting with the Union of European Federalists (UEF), have strongly supported our approach which, at the beginning, was not so easy to explain.
Our starting point was very simple. We were faced with an unprecedented health emergency and a deep economic crisis. That is why we have to deploy all the instruments we have at our disposal and create new, very innovative ones. If it is true that we are at war with the transnational threat of the Coronavirus, then we must all work together to build and manage a war economy. If we really want a European Renaissance, we must project ourselves into tomorrow’s world and not remain prisoners of yesterday’s world debates.
That is why we are convinced that the initiatives already taken and the work of the Eurogroup are already a very important step forward. We must not, in fact, choose’ between the various instruments: they must all be put in place, simply and quickly.
With a view to the European Summit on 23 April, political agreement has already been reached on some of these instruments: the SURE European Integration Fund (EUR 100 billion), the decision to make EUR 37 billion unconditionally available to the regions, the action of the European Investment Bank, which will mobilise up to EUR 200 billion, the new purchases of European Central Bank securities (up to EUR 900 billion, or 7.3% of the GDP of the euro zone, with which, in March alone, the ECB bought 12 billion Italian securities and only 2 billion German securities. …) and finally the use of the financing of the European Stability Mechanism/ESM (which has a capacity of 400 billion) to finance health spending without conditions (i.e. without a “troika” to put it simply).
We are convinced that all these instruments must be fully exploited and that other, more innovative ones must be created to respond to the crisis by rapidly mobilising at least 1500 billion. This is why we have proposed the “Recovery Bonds” issued by a “Recovery Fund”. And we are pleased that several governments and some Commissioners have relaunched and developed our initial proposal.
A difficult path, further complicated by the way the media and politicians have debated it in different countries. Why has this been the case? Because many have debated the world of yesterday instead of projecting themselves into the world of tomorrow. On the one hand, the “eurobonds” have been relaunched: a great idea, involving the pooling of at least part of existing national debts, linked to a political Union, with a eurozone budget, etc., and on the other hand, the “Eurobonds” have been relaunched.
The snag is that the relaunch of this debate has reactivated the divisions of yesterday’s world, from the Greek crisis, between North and South, cicadas and ants and other even less pleasant stereotypes. And we do not have time now to get bogged down in this debate, we must act, in an innovative and effective way.
In Italy, the absurd debate on the ESM continues when it can and must be part of the answer (in new forms). Whereas those who voted for it in 2010, the ineffable Matteo Salvini and Giorgia Meloni, are now waving it around as if it were the devil. And those who got a good deal, the Italian government, say they don’t want to use it. At his last conference, Giuseppe Conte played into the hands of Salvini and Meloni, saying that he does not want the ESM, even in a new form, thus contradicting the position defended by Italy in the Eurogroup. We know why: but the Prime Minister should be thinking of Italy and Europe, not of the bellyache of the 5-star movement. They have done no better in Germany and the Netherlands, where many, including ministers Peter Altmeier and Wopke Hoekstra, nationalist parties, the newspaper Die Welt have made short-sighted, stupid and offensive statements.
In this situation, we have tried to propose innovative solutions, build new alliances and fuel the debate in the two key countries: Germany and the Netherlands.
This is why, at the risk of sounding fussy, we insisted from the outset on the idea of Recovery Bonds and the Recovery Fund: unlike Eurobonds, Recovery Bonds do not involve debt pooling: nobody is asking the German taxpayer to pay the Italian debt. On the contrary, we need to establish a European recovery plan, identify common objectives and investments.