António Costa leaves The Hague “more confident” in an agreement at the European Council

Prime Minister António Costa said today that he would leave The Hague "more confident" in an agreement at this week's European Council on the European recovery plan, because he also felt "clearly" in his Dutch counterpart "a great will" in a compromise.

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Leaving a meeting with Mark Rutte, the main face of the 'frugal' countries, whose positions are more divergent from those of Portugal in budgetary matters, António Costa insisted that “it would be a lost opportunity” the 27 do not already reach an agreement at the summit that has started on Friday in Brussels, and stressed that all parties must give in to a compromise to be possible, being willing to do their part, as long as countries like the Netherlands also yield.

For António Costa, the proposal put on the table last Friday by the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, is a good starting point for a compromise, and, refusing to reveal the content of the conversation with Rutte, said that the conversation began with the Dutch prime minister precisely with an 'invitation' to an understanding around it.

Charles Michel's proposal reduces the multi-annual budget 2021-2027 to 1,07 billion euros, but keeps the Recovery Fund at 750 billion, as well as the balance between grants and loans, predicting that two-thirds (500 billion euros) ) are channeled to non-repayable Member States and the remainder (250 billion) in the form of loans. To 'please' the frugal countries, among other measures, the President of the European Council proposes to maintain the controversial 'rebates', the 'discounts' from which large net contributors, such as the Netherlands, benefit.

“I started the conversation here by saying that our understanding was very simple: if Prime Minister Rutte agreed with President Michel's proposal, I would agree with President Michel's proposal; if he did not agree with President Michel's proposal, I would not agree with President Michel's proposal ”, he said.

“And what do I mean by that? It is because I can only accept the reduction that President Michel proposes to the overall amount of the next financial framework, if Mark Rutte accepts the amount that is foreseen for the Recovery Fund. I can only accept to argue that the 'rebates' are maintained if the maintenance of the amount of cohesion or the second pillar of the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) is not called into question. So, if we both accept the proposal, great. If none accept the proposal, it sucks.

Underlining then that, “when we want a compromise, we all have to be available to give some part”, António Costa also stressed that it is necessary to undo a mistake, that countries like the Netherlands are being asked to show solidarity.

"It is necessary to understand that what is at issue here, contrary to what is often referred to, is not an issue that requires solidarity", he said, recalling that the crisis provoked by covid-19 constitutes "an absolutely symmetrical shock, completely external , completely unexpected, and that affects everyone, Holland included, should other economies on which it depends go into recession.

“It is not acceptable that, as some of the frugal countries say, it is necessary to impose certain conditions to support these countries as if it were a matter of solidarity. It is not a matter of solidarity, it is a question of rationality ”, he said.

Pointing out that Spain and Italy, the two countries most affected by the crisis, “taken together represent something like 15% of the value of the domestic market”, Costa noted that the Netherlands, the main beneficiary of the domestic market, “needs Italy and Spain so much. don't be in recession ”like Portugal, which has“ Spain as its first customer, or like Spain itself, which doesn't want to be in recession ”.

"So it is really a situation in which we are all facing the same problem, and we all come out of this problem at the same time, or we are all in the problem," he warned.

In short, Costa says he is leaving the Hague "more confident" in an agreement at the European Council on Friday and Saturday.

“I don't leave here with the certainty of an agreement, because there are still several points of divergence, but I clearly felt in Prime Minister Rutte a great desire for the agreement to exist, and preferably already, in July. And I think the next Council would be a missed opportunity if we didn't already make the deal. We all agree that the dice are up on the table, there is no reason to wait for anything. You just have to find a good way to compose the different perspectives that are on the table ”, he declared.

From The Hague, António Costa will head to Budapest, where he will be received on Tuesday by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, another counterpart who will try to "convince".

“With regard to the multiannual financial framework, [Orbán] has long held a position identical to ours. Regarding the recovery plan, it has a position that differs from ours and is close to some of the countries that believe that there should be mainly loans and not transfers. And therefore, if we want unanimity, we have to convince everyone, ”he said.

To 'finish off' the statements of the Portuguese Prime Minister to journalists, there was suddenly a greeting from someone who was cycling, and who was neither more nor less than Rutte, leaving the official residence on his usual means of transport. "Bye, Mark!" Replied Costa. Both have a new meeting scheduled for Friday in Brussels.

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