Finland spells out expectations for EU recovery package ahead of bloc's summit

Source: Xinhua| 2020-07-11 02:17:01|Editor: huaxia

HELSINKI, July 10 (Xinhua) -- Responding to European Council President Charles Michel's proposal for the European Union (EU)'s COVID-19 recovery package presented on Friday, the leaders of Finland said their aim was to reduce the overall size of the recovery instrument and to see more money given in the form of loans.

A week before EU leaders gather for their first physical meeting since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, Michel presented on Friday a revised proposal that includes a minor reduction to the EU next seven-year budget in a bid to secure the green light for his fresh wide-ranging plan to revive the European economy.

In a statement published on Twitter, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin commented that Michel's compromise proposal takes some steps in the right direction with regard to the EU's multiannual budget, but there is still a lot of work to be done on the recovery instrument.

Marin spelled out Finland's expectations for the recovery package. "We need a lower overall level and better balance of grants and loans," she wrote.

Michel's compromise proposal aims at reaching an agreement among EU leaders on the recovery package and the MFF. In his proposal, Michel maintained the size of the recovery instrument as proposed by the European Commission in May. Of the 750-billion-euro (847.5 billion U.S. dollars) fund, 500 billion euros would be provided to member states in the form of grants and the rest -- 250 billion euros -- in loans.

The best part of the changes to the European Commission's original proposal requested by Finland has been left out of Michel's compromise proposal. Finland had earlier said that it cannot accept the plan in its original form.

Finland's Finance Minister Matti Vanhanen on Friday reiterated his country's position that 750 billion euros is too big a figure and that the share of loans should be higher than the 250 billion euros proposed by Michel. He noted that Finland has yet to specify the exact reduction of the total sum it will seek.

Vanhanen told national radio Yle that it is "too early to describe the compromise plan as a disappointment." He also underlined that the criteria for the distribution of the money should be such that "a real impact on the economic situation is attained."

The European Commission's original plan was based on a formula that factored in recent years' employment levels and economic indicators. According to Finland, the impact of COVID-19 should be more prominent among the criteria.

Ville Tavio, chair of the parliamentary group of the largest opposition Finns Party, agreed on Friday that Finland must reject the package.

Satu Hassi, chair of the parliamentary Grand Committee that handles EU affairs in Finland, said on Friday that she expected the draft to be changed during the summit of the EU member states' leaders scheduled for July 17-18. Hassi described Michel's compromise proposal as a "basis for negotiations."

Vanhanen on Friday underlined the urgency of creating the EU COVID-19 recovery package. Noting that Finland's exports dropped by 30 percent in May, he said that the European markets should recover fast.

On Thursday, Vanhanen said that the recovery package must take into account the economic growth projections of each EU member state. According to the European Commission's economic forecast published on Tuesday, Finland's economy is projected to grow by just 2.8 percent in 2021. Enditem