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Irish Finance Minister warns of damage to the European project if Merkel-Macron deal obstructed

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Macron and Merkel during online summit on European Recovery Plan
Macron and Merkel during online summit on European Recovery Plan   -   Copyright  Francois Mori/AP
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The Irish Finance Minister has warned about potential damage to the European project if some member states object outright to the Merkel-Macron proposals for pan-European recovery.

Paschal Donohue says there would be “great difficulty” for the EU if “existing divergences” among member states are “exacerbated” by the impact of COVID-19.

Speaking yesterday following the ECO-FIN meeting of EU finance ministers, Donohue said he believes it’s possible to reach an agreement as it will pose “really big challenges for Europe” if no solution is found to support struggling member states.

“I do believe it’s very possible we’ll find a way of reaching agreement on the recovery front, because what would be a great difficulty to the European project is if existing gaps in the European project; or existing divergences within the European project – if they were to be greatly exacerbated by the impact of COVID on the European economy.”

“I think that of itself would pose really big challenges for Europe over the coming years.”

Donohue said there was a ‘constructive’ discussion among the ECO-FIN meeting of EU finance ministers on foot of the proposal on Monday. Everybody indicated we need to spend a bit of time now to consider this proposal and see if ways can be found to make it work.

He added that Ireland supported the initiative but would have to ensure that priorities within the MFF would have to reflect Ireland’s priorities such as marinating CAP levels.

“I know the prime ministers of a number of European countries have already indicated concern about a movement to grants, and from our point of view as a net contributor of course we have a desire to make sure that any contribution we make available both to the next European budget and to the recovery fund, that that money can be spent in a way that is sensible and makes sense to the Irish taxpayer.”

Donohue refused to comment specifically on the position taken by Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, saying “I’m not going to prejudge the attitude that Austria might yet take in these negotiations - it’s up to each country ‘to form its own views’ in relation to what the commission may put forward in the coming days.