- The Washington Times - Friday, April 10, 2020

European Union finance ministers have reached agreement on a tentative $590 billion deal to shore up economies across the continent devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, capping a week of sometimes bitter and divisive debate.

The deal includes a roughly $261 billion bailout fund for the EU’s most indebted members, which include countries such as Italy that have been particularly battered by the outbreak.

But the deal only came together after lengthy debates and a holdout by the Netherlands and other northern countries who argued the fund was too generous to countries and should come with conditions requiring reforms in the recipient countries.

EU powers France and Germany reportedly put heavy pressure on the Dutch to compromise.

“Europe has shown it can rise to the occasion of this crisis,” French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said, according to a Reuters news agency account.

But the deal apparently does not explicitly include the so-called joint EU “coronavirus bonds” that were proposed to help finance the package and which the EU’s creditor nations had strongly opposed.

“We are and will remain opposed to eurobonds,” Dutch Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra told reporters. “We think this concept will not help Europe or the Netherlands in long term.”

The agreement also calls for nearly $330 billion in subsidized loans from the European Investment Bank and job support programs from the European Commission.

EU leaders still have to sign off on the final package in a teleconference expected next week.

The deal was reached late Thursday after a week of marathon bargaining sessions. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told the BBC in an interview before Thursday’s deal was reached that failure would have long-term consequences for the “European project.”

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