Dutch finance minister regretful over Italy, coronabonds issue
Speaking about the heightened tensions between the Netherlands and several southern EU nations over the issuance of “coronabonds”, Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra indicated on Tuesday that he had previously shown “too little empathy” for the plight of Europe’s southern economies. Such a measure would be designed to support weaker economies, particularly in the south, which are struggling under the weight of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Netherlands is not in favor of issuing the bonds, Hoekstra affirmed. "But we want to look in a solidarity way to what is reasonable and sensible," he continued in an interview with RTL Z.
“If you reap as much anger as we have, then seemingly you’ve not done well,” Hoekstra said. “What we don't want has come across very well, but what we do want, hasn’t. I should have done better.”
The minister’s comments come within 24 hours of both an angry letter rebuking the Dutch government written by 12 Italian political leaders, and the grave concerns expressed by a former head of the Dutch Central Bank for the government’s resistance to a common debt instrument in the EU. The Italian politicians suggested the Dutch were selfish and hypocritical for allowing a generous tax shelter to big businesses which likely redistributes potential tax revenues that could have wound up in the coffers of other nations.
Former Dutch Central Bank leader Nout Wellink simply pointed out that the Netherlands will “no longer be a rich country in the North if the South falls.” The current leader, Klaas Knot, agreed that a united approach was necessary and more beneficial, as did dozens of other economists led by top University of Amsterdam professor Arnoud Boot.
Currently, the Netherlands, along with Germany, Austria and Finland, are working to stop the issuance of this type of debt, known as “coronabonds”, to avoid the risk of the measure becoming permanent. The Netherlands also takes a firm stance against the triggering of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), an emergency fund containing 400 billion euros, leading critics to accuse Prime Minister Mark Rutte of stubbornness.
Despite voicing his regret on the matter, Hoekstra nevertheless reiterated the government’s view that “coronabonds” are not a necessary measure to take in order to mitigate the ongoing economic crisis. “Our position on the coronabonds remains the same,” he stated, “but the position of solidarity does not; I have not given my message with enough empathy. But, in solidarity, we want to look to what is reasonable and sensible.”